Indonesian smear campaigns target Jokowi ahead of presidential election

By Ainur Rohmah in Jakarta

Fake news and hate speech are inundating Indonesia on and offline with the country’s general election just two months away and with presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto and incumbent Joko Widodo locked in a contest for the top spot.

Jokowi, as the president is known, remains clearly in the lead with as much as 20 percent of the voters picking him despite his being the target of torrents of fake news, according to several recent surveys.

The Prabowo team claims the race is closer based on internal surveys – which they decline to share.

READ MORE: Meet the fake news trolls who influenced the US and Indonesian polls for money

A survey by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) shows Jokowi and his partner, Islamic leader Ma’ruf Amin, with voter approval at 54.8 percent, while Prabowo and his running mate, businessman Sandiaga Uno, are well behind at 31.0 percent.

But in an example of the depth of misleading advertising, survey results of the Indonesian Telematics Society (Mastel) say nearly 45 percent of 1,116 respondents surveyed said they receive fake news and hoaxes every day.

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Unfortunately, 30.3 percent of respondents say they have difficulty checking the truth of such reports, with more than 75 percent of respondents agreeing that false news can disrupt community harmony.

Political issues dominate the fake news transmissions, according to the survey, followed by misleading reports on religion and health.

Chat applications
They can take the form of photos, videos, and narratives, and are mostly distributed via social media (Facebook and Twitter) and chat applications such as Whatsapp.

Among Indonesia’s 265.4 million population, fully half or 132.7 million are internet users, based on research conducted by We Are Social, with almost all of them – 130 million – active social media users.

At least 192 million voters will select the president and their representatives in parliament simultaneously across the country on April 17.

The latest research by the social media monitoring site PoliticaWave found that hoaxes mostly target Jokowi.

“From the presidential elections in 2014 to 2019, it appears that Jokowi is a victim of political hoaxes,” said executive director PoliticaWave Jose Rizal at a press conference in Jakarta.

PoliticaWave also found that the numbers of hoax issues have been rising. The 10 biggest hoax issues relating to the 2019 election include a fake attack on activist Ratna Sarumpaet, who first accused the Jokowi camp of being behind it.

She later switched her allegiance to the president. Others deal with reports of very large government debt; allegations that several containers filled with ballots had been discovered as already cast for Jokowi; toll electronic transactions associated with debt to China; and fake e-KTPs from China.

Many accusations
Jokowi has been accused of being a member of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), of being a closet Christian, of using foreign consultants and of having a fake high school certificate.

Others include that 10 million workers from China have entered Indonesia; and that vice presidential candidate Ma’ruf Amin will be replaced by the former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaya Purnama, who was arrested on trumped up blasphemy charges that played an integral role in his defeat.

“The ten biggest hoax issues are aimed at attacking Jokowi,” said Yose.

Claiming that he was fed up with accusations and hoaxes against him, Jokowi in recent speeches has sought to clarify the various negative allegations and to go after his political opponents.

In early February, he hinted – without mentioning specifically – a campaign team that carried out so-called “Russian propaganda,” a name that has gained increased currency with spectacular charges over Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

The term is construed as an accusation against Prabowo’s camp.

“The problem is that there is a campaign team that prepares Russian propaganda which is (marked) at any time to issue a blast of slander and hoax,” Jokowi said while addressing thousands of supporters in the city of Surabaya.

Foreign consultants
Jokowi accused the Prabowo camp of hiring foreign consultants, who he said were only oriented to victory without considering that their strategy could potentially divide society. He also criticised the opposition for often accusing him of being pro-foreigners even though they themselves used the services of foreigners.

“Their consultants are foreign consultants,” he said. “Then who is the foreign stooge? Do not let us be treated continuously by lies. Our people are smart, whether in the city or in the village,” he said.

Gerindra deputy chairman Fadli Zon denied the allegations.

“We do not use foreign consultants. We can’t afford to pay (foreign consultants),” he said.

Prabowo’s team responded by accusing Jokowi himself of using the services of a foreign consultant named Stanley Greenberg. The accusation was based on an article on a website stating that Stanley had been a consultant to Jokowi.

“A note for all these inquiries,” Greenberg responded publicly. “I have never worked for Mr Widodo in any way. The website you mention is not accurate nor affiliated with me in any capacity.

“Accurate information on our past clients is listed on my official website,” Greenberg wrote through his Twitter account @stangreenberg, attaching his official website.

‘Russian propaganda’
The controversy about “Russian propaganda” also provoked the Russian Embassy in Jakarta to comment.

“We underline that Russia’s principal position is not to intervene in domestic affairs and electoral processes in foreign countries, including Indonesia which is our close friend and important partner,” wrote the Russian Embassy through its official Twitter account @RusEmbJakarta.

But Jokowi’s special team of Cakra 19 said it was convinced that “Russian propaganda” was now being applied in Indonesia, by adopting what is known as “firehoses of falsehoods,” an operation used by Russian hackers between 2012-2017 in the Crimea crisis, the Ukrainian conflict and the civil war in Syria.

“In Russia, this modus operandi has emerged as long ago as the 1870s through the Narodniki movement. This movement was used to bring down the Russian Czar by continually raising negative issues,” said the chairperson of the Cakra 19 team, Andi Widjajanto in a written statement.

“Operation blast of slander aims to make lies defeat the truth. This operation wants to destroy public trust in political authorities, including the media,” said the former Cabinet Secretary and defense expert.

Prabowo’s campaign team, known as the National Winning Agency (BPN), has launched allegations that the Jokowi government has used legal means to get rid of political opponents ahead of the upcoming election.

“Now people who have the potential to gain votes in the BPN circle have begun to be crushed one by one,” Gerindra Party general secretary Ahmad Muzani said.

Hate speech
He charged that a musician-turned politician, Ahmad Dhani, and a cleric leading the Movement 212 – a group of conservative Muslims who held a series of demonstrations against former Jakarta governor Basuki – named Slamet Ma’arif had been the target of what he called “criminalisation”.

Dhani was sentenced to 18 months in prison at the end of January on a charge of hate speech. Ma’arif members are now suspected of a series of alleged campaign violations.

Several other names in Prabowo’s camp were also involved in legal cases or even jailed. Muzani claimed the police were quick to investigate cases involving Prabowo’s sympathizers but not with cases involving or suspected of involving Jokowi’s supporters.

“We have submitted many reports (to the police), but it seems that there is not enough evidence. Whereas when our party was reported, (it was said) there was enough evidence. This is no longer inequality, it is bias,” Muzani said.

Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko denied Muzani’s allegations, emphasizing that the government did not intervene in the legal process.

“That there are (BPN members) who are entangled in legal matters, look to yourselves. It may be something that is wrong (with themselves). So don’t always blame the government,” Said Moeldoko as quoted by kompas.com

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Timorese journalists protest outside Philippine embassy over Ressa arrest

Timor-Leste Press Union president Francisco Belo condemning the arrest and charge of “cyber libel” against Rappler publisher Maria Ressa. Image: Antonio Dasiparu/TLPU

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The Timor-Leste Press Union has protested in front of the Philippine Embassy in the capital Dili in solidarity with indicted Journalist Maria Ressa over her “persecution” and in defence of freedom of the press.

Rappler CEO and editor Maria Ressa is known and respected for her work as a journalist in bringing the plight of the suffering people of Timor-Leste under a quarter century of Indonesian occupation prior to renewed independence in 1999.

The Timorese journalist protest was broadcast by the public broadcaster RTTL.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer, one of the leading Philippine national dailies, reported today that Ressa had accused President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration of acting like a dictatorship and using the law as a weapon to muzzle dissent.

READ MORE: Rappler’s Maria Ressa sees threat to democracy

“What we’re seeing … is a level of impunity that I frankly haven’t seen, and I’ve been a journalist for more than 30 some odd years,” Ressa said after posting bail in a Manila court on Thursday.

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Ressa, who was selected by Time magazine as one of its Persons of the Year last year, is the head of Rappler Inc., which has aggressively covered Duterte’s administration.

Rappler publisher Maria Ressa speaking at a media conference after her release on bail in Manila. Image: Philippine Daily Inquirer

She was arrested Wednesday over a libel complaint from a businessman. Duterte’s government claimed the arrest was a normal step in response to the complaint and had nothing to do with press freedom.

Universities condemn arrest
University leaders and student groups in the Philippines have also condemned the arrest of Ressa, saying schools must defend the truth and press freedom, reports Rappler.

Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) president Father Ramon Jose Villarin and De La Salle Philippines president Brother Armin Luistro urged the universities’ communities to speak out and defend democracy.

“The university shares Maria’s challenge to shine the light on power and be brave in witnessing to the truth. Veritas liberabit vos (The truth will set you free),” Villarin said.

“Lies and false promises of unbridled power, when met with silence, will only make us a nation of slaves,” he added.

Luistro urged Lasallians to “vote with their feet” in the upcoming 2019 elections and make their voices heard to defend press freedom.

Ressa was arrested in connection with a cyber libel case filed by the Justice Department.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Student Council and ADMU publication The Guidon denounced the arrest, saying students would continue to hold the line with Ressa and Rappler.

‘Make our voices heard’
Here are the statements of support from various schools:

Brother Armin Luistro FSC, president of De La Salle Philippines:

“Let’s give our all out support as Lasallians to Rappler. Let’s defend press freedom. Let’s make our voices heard. Let’s vote with our feet and stand with Maria Ressa!”

Father Jose Ramon Villarin SJ, president of Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU):

“In my statement of 13 October 2017, I had occasion to ‘call on everyone in the community to defend our democratic institutions” and to state that “[t]his call to defend our democratic institutions is not even a matter of political partisanship or persuasion. It is a call that is borne out of our conviction about what is right and just and truly democratic.’

“While such pronouncements then pertained to government institutions in particular, the same should be said with regard to freedom of speech, of expression and of the press. No less than the Philippine Constitution recognises ‘the vital role of communication and information in nation-building’ (Constitution, Art. II. Sec. 24) and ‘the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press’ (Constitution, Art. III, Sec. 4).

“There are several rights and freedoms necessary for a democratic society to function. The right to life, the right to due process, the sweet freedoms of speech and of the press – all of these were once considered sacred, inviolable. But as of late these have been called into question; mocked, attacked, degraded.

Rappler, and its brave leader Maria Ressa, have consistently held the line against the erosion of these liberties. It is journalists like her who keep us all informed about the state of our nation, covering different areas of our national life, contributing immeasurably to the wealth and value of our country.

“Too often these days, it is they who wage daily battles against fake news, expose corruption and bring to light illegal practices and wrongdoing by those who lead us.”

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Don’t be silent,’ says defiant Maria Ressa in fight for press freedom

Rappler publisher condemns Duterte government’s “abuse of power”. Video: ABS-CBN

By Iris Gonzales in Manila

The Philippine press has seen many dark days but Maria Ressa’s arrest this week is among the worst.

It signals dangerous times for our country’s democracy, 33 years since it was restored in 1986.

Ressa is a veteran journalist who founded the news website Rappler – and a thorn in the side of President Rodrigo Duterte.

READ MORE: Journalist’s arrest in Philippines sparks demonstrations, fears of a wider crackdown

The feisty journalist, hailed as Time Person of the Year for 2018, was arrested around 5 pm on Wednesday, February 13, by officers of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Maria Ressa … “You have to be outraged like what I’m doing now.” Image: Maria Ressa FB

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The arrest warrant was issued by a local court the day before in connection with a “cyber-libel” case filed by the Philippine Department of Justice against Ressa and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr.

The case relates to a story published in May 2012. However, the cyber libel law the story allegedly violated was enacted in September 2012 – some four months later.

The Justice Department filed the case following a complaint lodged by business person Wilfredo Keng, whom Rappler identified in an article as having alleged links to illegal drugs and human trafficking, based on intelligence reports.

‘Abuse of power’
Ressa described her indictment and arrest this week as an “abuse of power” and “weaponisation of the law” against a citizen. She had to spend a night at the NBI office because her warrant was served at 5 pm – a time when government offices were already closed, making it impossible for Ressa to post bail.

The following day she was granted temporary liberty, after posting a P100,000 (US$1900) bail bond at a Manila court.

“These legal acrobatics show how far the government will go to silence journalists, including the pettiness of forcing me to spend the night in jail,” she said.

While Keng had every right to seek redress in the courts, Ressa’s arrest indicates a readiness of government officials to use their power and weaponise the law to go after individuals they perceive as enemies or threats.

Every journalist or critic of the administration is vulnerable. Every action which the government may not like may be put under scrutiny and brought to court.

Let us not forget that President Duterte’s critic, Senator Leila de Lima, is still in jail because of trumped up drug-related charges.

This time, it’s Ressa who is being harassed by the government. But she won’t take it sitting down.

‘Be outraged’
“I’m saying and I’m appealing to you not to be silent, especially if you’re next. You have to be outraged like what I’m doing now,” she said minutes after posting bail.

In a statement, Rappler warned: “No one is safe.”

Apart from cyber-libel, Ressa and Rappler are facing five tax cases. In December 2018, Ressa posted bail twice over alleged violation of the Tax Code. Rappler has also faced revocation of its corporate registration papers by the Securities and Exchange Commission

But, headed by some of the country’s best investigative journalists, Rappler said it would not be cowed by attempts at intimidation and vowed to continue its journalistic duties. ‘We will continue to tell the truth and report what we see and hear. We are first and foremost journalists.’

Ressa’s case will come up in March but her lawyer JJ Disini said they would file a motion to quash and question the information regarding the cyber libel case filed against his client.

The Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation, a group of journalists, bloggers and other cause-oriented individuals, has condemned what happened and strongly denounced the continuing harassment of Ressa.

“Her arrest,” it said, “is a betrayal of the guarantees of press freedom and freedom of expressed enshrined in the Constitution. More, its callous execution is an indictment of a weakened justice system; its devious grounds a dangerous fabrication that affects not just journalists, but everyone.”

The international Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have also denounced Ressa’s arrest as “an outrage”.

What happened to Ressa can happen to anyone in my country. Every freedom-loving Filipino must realize this and should stand up against any action that will curtail our freedom as individuals.

As Rappler says, we must all hold the line.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Philippine website editor Maria Ressa held on ‘cyber libel’ charge

Award-winning journalist, publisher and editor Maria Ressa (left) being arrested in Rappler’s newsroom yesterday. She was being kept in detention last night. Image: Maria Tan/AFP/RSF

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The Paris-based global media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned yesterday’s arrest of Maria Ressa, editor of the independent Manila-based news website Rappler, on a “cyber libel” (defamation) charge.

It is referring the Philippine government’s “repeated persecution” of this journalist and her website to the United Nations Secretary-General.

Chosen as one of Time Magazine’s “persons of the year” in 2018, Ressa was spending last night in detention after being arrested at Rappler headquarters by agents from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) armed with an arrest warrant issued on the basis of online defamation case filed last week.

READ MORE: Rappler CEO Maria Ressa arrested for ‘cyber libel’

“It seems that her arrest was left until the end of the afternoon with the deliberate aim of keeping her in detention overnight,” RSF said.

According to her colleagues, the judge said there was no time to handle the bail request until today.

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The Philippine Justice Department filed the case against Ressa and Rappler on February 6 over an article published in 2012 about alleged ties between a Philippine businessmen and the then president of the country’s Supreme Court.

The charges, which carry a possible 12-year jail sentence, were brought under a cyber crime law that had not yet taken effect when the article was published.

‘No place in prison’
“Maria Ressa has no place in prison and the judicial persecution to which she is being subjected is becoming increasingly unacceptable,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“Digging up an old case that was dismissed in February 2018 is absolutely absurd and confirms that this is not justice but an attempt to gag a media outlet and editor recognised internationally for their professionalism and independence.”

Deloire added: “We are asking the UN secretary-general to intercede as quickly as possible to end this harassment. At the same time, we ask the court that handles this case to dismiss all the charges against Maria Ressa and Rappler.”

This is the sixth charge to be brought against Ressa in more than a year of systematic judicial harassment.

Four charges of tax evasion and failing to file income tax returns were brought against Rappler and Ressa last November. A fifth charge, described by RSF as “completely spurious”, was brought in December.

Ressa is one of the 25 members of an international panel created at RSF’s initiative last year that drafted an international Declaration on Information and Democracy.

On the basis of the declaration, the leaders of 12 democratic countries launched a political process on November 11 aimed at providing democratic guarantees for news and information and freedom of opinion.

Media freedom awards
As well as being one of Time Magazine’s “persons of the year,” Ressa also received the 2018 Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists and has become a symbol of the Philippine media’s fight against intimidation by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Philippines is ranked 133rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Press freedom groups around the world, including New Zealand’s Pacific Media Centre/Pacific Media Watch, condemned the persecution, with Pen America saying the arrest showed the Duterte government was “desperate” to silence critics.

“Maria Ressa, along with her colleagues at Rappler, has fearlessly exposed the abuses of the Duterte government, even in the face of relentless harassment,” Pen said.

“By arresting her on these absurd and baseless charges, concerning an article published 7 years ago and prior to the enactment of the very law under which she is being charged, the Philippines government has exposed how desperate it is to silence critics and stamp out independent journalism in the country.

“We call on the Duterte government to immediately drop these charges and release Ressa. Investigative journalism is not a crime.”

#Journalismisnotacrime

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Killings, arrests as military ‘flush out’ Mindanao environmental defenders

An international non-government organisation, The Global Witness, has reported that 48 individuals were killed in the country last year, a majority related to agribusiness. Image: Philstar

By KEN E. CAGULA in Davao City

The massive human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples or Lumads and peasants are designed to silence the opposition to the continuing operations of large-scale mining and plantations in Northern Mindanao and the rest of Caraga Region.

This was the assessment made by the environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment or Kalikasan PNE.

“The military is trying to flush out the opposition to mining and plantation interests in Northern Mindanao and Caraga region,” said Kalikasan PNE coordinator Leon Dulce.

READ MORE: Philippines had highest number of killed environmental defenders in Asia

Dulce points out that these Lumad and peasant leaders are the environmental defenders that continue to stand and oppose the large-scale mining and plantation operations in areas of Mindanao.

At present, these environmental defenders are protecting around 243,163 ha of forest and agricultural lands within their ancestral domains and farmlands against the encroachment of these extractive and destructive projects in Northern Mindanao and Caraga Region, he said.

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Hundreds of Lumad residents from Sitio Manluy-a, Panukmoan, and Decoy in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town in Surigao del Sur fled from their homes after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducted a series of artillery bombardment and harassments last month.

On January 24, two Manobo farmers identified as Randel Gallego and Emel Tejero, all residents of Km. 16, Brgy. Diatagon went missing after they were allegedly fired upon by soldiers while hauling abaca products.

Dead farmers
The families of the two farmers found their dead bodies at a military detachment six days after they were reported missing.

The 401st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army claimed that Gallego and Tejero were killed in a clash between soldiers and the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

But human rights advocates belied the military’s claim, saying that the two were unarmed civilians.

“The Lumad communities in Lianga are standing firmly against the coal and gold mining exploration and development projects attempting to grab lands and resources from their ancestral lands ensconced within the Andap River Valley Complex. For this, they are constantly being attacked by the military,” Dulce said.

These areas in Surigao del Sur are one of the largely militarised areas in Caraga region, prompting the exodus of IPs out from their lands due to the continuing presence of soldiers and paramilitary groups in their communities.

Kalikasan PNE also slammed the “illegal arrest” of Datu Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organisation and Ireneo Udarbe, chair of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Northern Mindanao Region on January 28.

The police named the two leaders as “top NPA leaders” which Kalikasan PNE said is a “repeated accusation” to justify the illegal arrest.

“Goaynon and Udarbe are stalwarts of the struggles of indigenous people and peasants against agri-industrial plantations in Northern Mindanao. They have also effectively exposed military-affiliated indigenous paramilitary groups such as the New Indigenous People’s Army Reform who have been attacking Lumad lands to pave the way for mining deals,” Dulce said.

Martial law
With the continued declaration of martial rule, Kalikasan PNE said that attacks against environmental defenders continue to worsen.

At least 28 cases of environmental-related killings in Mindanao were recorded by the group since it was first declared by President Rodrigo Duterte in May 23, 2017.

They noted the “growing trend” of killed defenders vilified as members or supporters of the NPA

“The Duterte government is trying to depict our fellow environmental defenders as rebels or terrorists to justify the militarization of their bastions of natural wealth. We demand that Goaynon and Udarbe be freed and that military troops wreaking havoc in Lianga be withdrawn as soon as possible.

“Justice for the murdered defenders must be delivered and the bloody reign of Duterte’s martial law over Mindanao must be lifted immediately,” Dulce said.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Jakarta media activist threatens to sue Facebook for shutting accounts

Facebook announced last week that it had taken down hundreds of pages, groups and accounts with ties to Saracen, an online syndicate believed to have been involved in creating hoaxes for money. Image: Panchenko Vladimir/Jakarta Post/Shutterstock

By Marguerite Afra Sapiie in Jakarta

Indonesian social media activist Permadi Arya has threatened to file a Rp 1 trillion (NZ$107 million) lawsuit against Facebook after the tech giant shut down his account in a crackdown on fake news in Indonesia.

Permadi, also known as Abu Janda, said Facebook had made serious allegations by accusing him of being part of fake news group Saracen and shutting down his Facebook pages and accounts.

In a video posted to his Twitter account @permadiaktivis, the activist said his lawyers had sent a legal notice to Facebook demanding that the company clear his name and restore all his pages and accounts.

“Otherwise we will take this to the court and sue Facebook for Rp 1 trillion for immaterial damages,” said Permadi, who chairs an organisation called Cyber Indonesia.

Permadi is known as a supporter of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, while the Saracen group is believed to have produced fake news and hate speech that attacked the sitting president.

“I am a well-known antiterrorism activist at the forefront of battling fake news. I am not a part of fake news. So obviously Facebook has made a great mistake,” he said, adding that his reputation was tarnished and freedom threatened.

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Facebook announced last week that it had taken down hundreds of pages, groups and accounts with ties to Saracen, an online syndicate believed to have been involved in creating hoaxes for money, systematically engaging in “deceptive behaviour” and manipulating public debate within the platform.

The tech giant removed a total of 207 Facebook pages, 800 accounts, 546 groups and 208 Instagram accounts believed to be linked to Saracen, one of which was Permadi Arya’s Facebook page.

According to Facebook, the Saracen-linked networks worked together to manage fake accounts and mislead others about “who they are and what they are doing”. The company also removed all ways of accessing accounts related to the network.

Permadi also threatened to report Facebook to the police for allegedly violating the Electronic Information and Transactions Law.

Marguerite Afra Sapiie is media affairs writer of The Jakarta Post.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

No progress on press freedom, impunity under Jokowi’s watch

By Dieqy Hasbi Widhana in Jakarta

Indonesia’s National Press Day (HPN), which falls on February 9 – yesterday, is a reminder of the murder of Radar Bali journalist Anak Agung Gede Prabangsa in 2009.

Based on the results of an investigation by the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), which was later published under the title “The Bloody Trail After News, Prabangsa was murdered because he wrote at least three articles on the manipulation of project budgets valued at around 40 billion rupiah (NZ$47 billion) in Bangli regency, Bali.

The three reports were titled, “Supervision after a Project is Running”, “Sharing the Bangli Education Office P1 Project” and “Agency Head’s Document Deemed Flawed”.

READ MORE: The Bloody Trail After News [Bahasa Indonesian]

The mastermind behind Prabangsa’s murder was Susrama, a contractor who routinely handled contract and procurement tenders for several government offices and agencies in Bangli, Bali.

Susrama is also the younger brother of Bangli Regent I Nengah Arnawa, who at the time was an Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) legislative candidate in the 2009 elections, and was then elected as a member of the Bangli Regional House of Representatives (DPRD). Susrama was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment for Prabangsa’s murder.

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The irony, however, is that Susrama’s life sentenced has been commuted by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Through a sentence remission contained in Presidential Decree Number 29/2018, Widodo reduced Susrama’s sentence from life to 20 years imprisonment. Susrama was the 94th in a list of 115 convicts who received sentence remissions.

Convict profiling
Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers) executive director Ade Wahyudin says that the Susrama’s remission failed to consider a variety of aspects.

“What was missed in the convict profiling study, was what were the case details, the social effect of a case such as this”, Wahyudin told Tirto.

In the same vein as Wahyudin, AJI chairperson Abdul Manan said that Widodo’s decision was very disappointing because the remission given to Susrama completely ignored the public’s sense of justice.

On Friday afternoon, Wahyudin and Manan met with the Director-General for Correctional Institutions at the Ministry for Justice and Human Rights (Kemenkum HAM), Sri Puguh Budi Utami.

Accompanied by a representative from the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI), the two conveyed their complaints over the remission and handed over a petition put together by AJ, the LBH Pres and YLBHI.

“We asked that the remission for Prabangsa’s murder be revoked,” said Manan explaining the demands they took to the president.

Poor press freedom ranking
According to Manan, using the standards set by Paris-based global media freedom agency Reporters Without Borders, the state of press freedom in Indonesia is indeed very dim. Indonesia’s ranking is 124th out of 180 countries, lower even that Timor-Leste.

“It’s below 100, that’s in the underdog league, right. Categorised very bad,” said Manan.

Widodo has indeed routinely appeared at annual celebrations of National Press Day organised by the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI). However, explained Manan, this has not automatically translated into efforts to strengthen press freedom in Indonesia.

“The February event commemorated by PWI was largely ceremonial. Totally inadequate to show that he sides [with journalists]”, he said.

There are many things that Widodo should be able to do rather than just taking part in ceremonial National Press Day commemorations. For example, said Manan, asking the Kemenkum HAM to look at the proposed revisions to the Criminal Code (KUHP), specifically the new on “contempt of court”.

The current formulation is problematic because journalists can be sentenced to five years jail if their journalistic work influences a judges’ verdict.

In addition to this, there is Article 494 on revealing confidential information. Likewise, Article 309 Paragraph (1) which has the potential for multiple interpretations and is susceptible to being used to criminalise journalists.

Articles too vague
“He should, if he wants to defend the press, [be able] to initiate the creation of regulations that support a climate of press freedom. Annul the articles which endanger the independence of the press because they are too vague,” he said.

The need to revise these problematic articles is becoming more urgent bearing in mind that in the last year there have been two efforts to criminalise journalists.

Those who have fallen victim were the former editor of Serat.id, Zakki Amali and Manan himself. The two were criminalised for investigating alleged plagiarism by Semarang State University (Unnes) rector Fathur Rokhman and the IndonesiaLeaks “red book” scandal allegedly involving National Police Chief (Kapolri) General Tito Karnavian.

“The Serat.id case was clearly just a press dispute. Police should be very careful in handling this. Ideally, pushing for the case not to be handled as a criminal case, so that it can be resolved though the mechanisms of the UU Pers (Press Law), namely by asking Unnes to submit a complaint with the Press Council”, explained Manan.

“Meanwhile the IndonesiaLeaks case is very clear cut and if they want to make an issue out of reports which were carried by five different media outlets, it’s inappropriate it to deal with it as a crime. The party that feels injured, if that’s Kapolri, should set an example by dealing with the case through mechanisms which are already provided for by the UU Pers”.

Still lots of homework
There is lots of homework that Widodo which needs to prioritise in order to protect press freedom in Indonesia.

Take for example his vision, mission and action program when he first ran as a presidential candidate in the 2014 presidential election. Widodo pledge to reorganise the ownership of broadcast frequencies in the hope of preventing monopolies by groups of people or broadcasting industry cartels.

According to doctoral research by Ros Tapsell from the Australian National University which was publish as a book titled “Media Power in Indonesia” (2017), there are eight media conglomerates that monopolise the public broadcast frequencies.

Aside from the problem of media conglomerates, Widodo also needs to fix the problem of the clearing house, a mechanism aimed at screening requests for permits by foreign journalists wanting to report on Papua.

The clearing house involves 19 working unit from 12 different ministries and is known for being convoluted and time consuming.

When he attended the great harvest in Marauke regency in Papua on May 10, 2015, Widodo asserted that these procedures would be abolished. Widodo declared that there should be a transparent mechanism with objective standards used to evaluate foreign journalist permit requests to report on Papua.

Journalists spied on
“Journalists find it difficult to obtain permits to report [on Papua], they are even spied on. In other cases their fixers are intimidated”, he said.

The other no less important problem is intimidation. Based AJI’s advocacy team’s records, during Widodo term in office new patterns of violence against journalists have emerged in the form of harassment and releasing private information through social media.

In 2018 there were three cases of journalists being persecuted in the online media. The victims were journalists from kumparan.com and detik.com. Their private data was publically released after they reported on the “211 Defend Islam Action” by a group who objected to the reports that they wrote.

“No legal action is ever taken in case journalists being persecuted. But, several cases of persecution where the victims were not journalists have been pursued legally. The president must show a clearer commitment to press freedom, particularly in its real application,” he said.

Wahyudin also raised the issue of poor protection for journalists under Widodo’s watch.

“There has been absolutely no progress. He’s been exactly same as the SBY [Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] era, Jokowi. He hasn’t given attention to press freedom. Perhaps he thinks it’s already safe or resolved. Yet every year there are [incidents] of violence against journalists,” said Wahyudin.

Concrete steps
The government’s role, said Wahyudin, should be to guarantee that press freedom is protected. Yet Widodo has not fully realised this.

“It’s not enough. The government must take concrete steps in resolving murder cases. [Otherwise] the effect of ignoring cases of murder and valence will just be mushrooming impunity. Our democracy [itself] will become sick,” he said.

“In general terms, Widodo’s [new] vision and mission does not address press freedom. It more prioritises infrastructure but the aspect of civil freedoms are still very lacking.”

Translated by James Balowski for the Indo-Left News Service in partnership with the Pacific Media Centre. The original title of the article was “Hari Pers Nasional: Tak Ada Progres Kebebasan Pers di Era Jokowi“.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Philippine website accused in ‘absurd’ seven-year-old media libel case

“This indictment is evidence that the law has been weaponised – the NBI’s own lawyers recommended the case be thrown out,” says Rappler CEO Maria Ressa. Image: Rappler

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the latest “absurd charges” that the Philippine Justice Department is planning to bring against the news website Rappler – this time libel charges in connection with an article posted in 2012 – and has called for the case to be dismissed.

The Justice Department has announced that Rappler, its editor and CEO Maria Ressa, and one of its former reporters, Reynaldo Santos Jr., are to be charged over a 2012 article about alleged ties between businessmen Wilfredo Keng and the then president of the country’s Supreme Court.

The charges, which carry a possible 12-year jail sentence, are based on the complaint that Keng brought five years later, in October 2017, under a cyber-crime law that was enacted several months after the article’s publication.

READ MORE: DOJ to indict Rappler for cyber libel

The National Bureau of Investigation dismissed the complaint in February 2018 because the law was not retroactive and because of a one-year moratorium on filing complaints, but reversed its decision the following month.

The Justice Department is reviving the case on the grounds that a principle of “continuous publication” can be applied to websites.

-Partners-

‘Grotesque persecution’
“The judicial harassment used by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration to persecute Rappler’s journalists is becoming grotesque,” said Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“It would be almost laughable if it weren’t for the terrible judicial precedent that this decision would set, if upheld. We urge the court that handles this case to show independence and wisdom by dismissing it once and for all.”

The authorities have been systematically targeting Rappler for more than a year with the aim of intimidating its journalists. Four charges of tax evasion and failing to file income tax returns were brought against Rappler and Ressa in November.

A fifth, “completely spurious”, charge was brought in December, said RSF.

In January 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that it was revoking Rappler’s licence on the grounds that it had violated a ban on foreign ownership of media outlets, spuriously claiming that, by issuing Philippine Depositary Receipts to raise funds, it had sold some of its stock to foreign investors.

RSF referred this “unacceptable attack on media independence” to various international bodies.

In response to Rappler’s appeal against the SEC decision, a court ruled in July that the website should be allowed “reasonable time” to resolve any dispute about its financial structure.

The Rappler reporter assigned to covering the Malacañang presidential palace was meanwhile denied entry to the palace in February 2018 on Duterte’s personal orders.

The Philippines is ranked 133rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

The Pacific Media Centre collaborates with Reporters Without Borders.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Vietnamese blogger critic missing and feared ‘kidnapped’ in Bangkok

Truong Duy Nhat’s disappearance is all the more disturbing because he is widely respected as a blogger. Image: RSF/Youtube).

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on the Thai authorities to shed all possible light on the disappearance of Truong Duy Nhat, a famous Vietnamese blogger who went missing in Bangkok last month, one day after going to the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to apply for refugee status.

RSF is concerned that Vietnamese agents may have kidnapped Truong Duy Nhat on January 26 , who is from the city of Danang, in central Vietnam. The Thai police say they are not holding him.

More than ten days have gone by since anyone heard from him, RSF reports.

Other Vietnamese bloggers who have applied for refugee status in Bangkok say they think he was abducted while in a shopping mall in suburban Bangkok, according to Radio Free Asia, one of the media outlets for which Nhat works.

“We urge the Thai authorities to make every effort to shed light on Truong Duy Nhat’s extremely disturbing disappearance,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“If the Thai authorities prove not to have been involved, this would mean that Vietnamese agents are no longer bothered by international law and violate a partner country’s sovereignty in order to pursue their critics. This sends an absolutely terrifying message to the community of Vietnamese bloggers who have sought refuge in Bangkok.”

-Partners-

Network of sources
Nhat’s disappearance is all the more disturbing because he is widely respected as a blogger, even within certain circles of the ruling Communist Party in Hanoi.

Bui Thanh Hieu, a blogger who has found asylum in Germany, wrote on Facebook that he suspected that Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc may have ordered Nhat’s abduction.

“I think the prime minister wants Nhat arrested at all costs because he is in possession of compromising information about the prime minister’s clan in Quang Nam province,” Hieu wrote.

Quang Nam province adjoins Danang, Nhat’s home town, where the blogger has many sources to help him with his investigative reporting.

Place of refuge
Nhat used to work for state media outlets, including Danang police newspapers, until 2010, when he launched his own blog, Mot Goc Nhin Khac (Another Viewpoint), in order to be able to report and write with complete freedom.

He was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to two years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms” in his blog posts. RSF included him in its list of 100 “information heroes” in 2014.

In the course of the Vietnamese government’s two-year-old crackdown on citizen-journalists, many of them have found refuge in Bangkok.

Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index, the lowest ranking in Southeast Asia. Thailand is ranked 140th.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Jokowi plays it tough, accusing Prabowo of ‘outbursts of lies’

Presidential candidates Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (left) and Ma’ruf Amin make statements during the first candidate debate on January 18. Image: Dhoni Setiawan/Jakarta Post

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo appears to have gone on the offensive against his challenger in the upcoming presidential election Prabowo Subianto as the second presidential debate draws nearer, reports The Jakarta Post.

Over the weekend, Jokowi made strong remarks slamming his rival in his speeches, ranging from criticising Prabowo’s statement that Indonesia could become extinct to accusing the rival camp of using foreign consultants to prepare themselves for the election.

The incumbent also defended Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati against Prabowo’s statement that described her as a “debt-printing minister” in relation to swelling government debt, as Widodo implied that the former military general did not understand macroeconomic issues.

READ MORE: Facebook, Twitter try to safeguard Indonesian elections

“I can only convey [the facts] as they are. How can I stay silent and continue to remain patient? I will not,” President Widodo said in Jakarta on Sunday, “I can [play rough] once in a while.”

The statement came two weeks before the second election debate, in which Jokowi and Prabowo are expected to trade blows on issues surrounding food, energy, natural resources, the environment and infrastructure, reports The Jakarta Post.

-Partners-

During his 2019 presidential campaign event in Semarang, Central Java, President Widodo said the most important thing was that he conveyed facts and data in his statements.

“What’s important is [we] don’t produce outbursts of lies […] and hoaxes,” he said on Sunday, in an apparent jab at Prabowo supporters who have been implicated in spreading misinformation.

Hate speech
Last week, musician Ahmad Dhani was sentenced to imprisonment for hate speech and violating the Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) Law.

Dhani was found guilty for hate speech in connection with a tweet he posted that incited people to attack supporters of former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.

Fellow opposition activist Ratna Sarumpaet, a former member of the Prabowo-Sandiaga campaign team, is currently in police custody awaiting trial for violation of the same law, after falsely claiming that she had been assaulted by three unknown assailants last September.

She later admitted that the bruises on her face were the result of cosmetic surgery.

President Widodo’s recent remarks, however, are not the first time that the incumbent has taken the offensive against political attacks that have targeted his administration over the last four years.

In the past few months, the incumbent fumed over accusations that he was affiliated to the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), a rumor which started during his 2014 presidential election campaign.

He has also refuted allegations that he is a foreign puppet, pointing out that Indonesia had officially become the majority owner of PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI) with 51.23 percent of ownership during his tenure.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media