04 August 2010

Press Freedom and The Dangers to Journalists...

A free press is often seen as a hallmark of a mature democracy. The simple idea being that a free press in some way ensures that there is accountability and the culture of impunity and immunity is whittled away. However, a free press does not always guarantee the safety of those who wish to expose the excesses of some members of the community through their activism or their reporting. Indonesia has seen three journalists killed since February 2009. The latest, Ardiansyah Matra'is was pulled from a river in West Papua. Matra'is was naked and handcuffed.

Stop killing journalists!

Matra'is prior to his death was a reporter for Merauke TV. Matra'is death is also the culmination of a series of threats SMS-ed to journalists warning them that "if they played with fire they would be sure to get burned" and that they should be 'prepared for death'.

Matra'is' death follows the mysterious death of a Kompas journalist, Muhammad Syaifullah, in Kalimantan. The police have been quick to dismiss foul play, which suggests that the case theory as far as the police are concerned is that this was a suicide. Syaifullah had been reporting on the ongoing raping and pillaging of Indonesia's natural forests and resources by big mining companies.

These two deaths follow the death of Anak Agung Prabangsa of Radar Bali in February 2009. Prabangsa had also been the subject of threats after exposing irregularities in the building of an international standard primary school in Bangli, Bali.

It is time that the free press that is claimed to exist in Indonesia became free. The first step is to ensure that journalists can do their jobs in an environment where they are free from terror and threats of death and, in at least 3 cases in the last 18 months, death.

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