"Dispute caused by news reporting should be settled through a mechanism regulated by the Press Law, namely the Press Council," General Chairman of the Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI) Suwarjono noted in a joint statement issued by the AJI, the Indonesian Television Journalists Association (IJTI), the Indonesia Journalists Association (PWI), and the Press Legal Aid Institute (LBH Pers) at the Press Council Building here on Thursday.
The statement was issued following recent action by the police to process a complaint made by the Indonesia Grass Root Community Movement against Tempo Weekly with regard to the magazines reporting about the wealth of Commissioner General Budi Gunawan and the disbursement of funds from him to several parties.
Suwarjono noted that the AJI, IJTI, PWI, and LBH Pers viewed the Tempo magazines report on Budi Gunawans wealth was not against journalistic principles regulated by the Press Law.
Article 4 of the Press Law guarantees national press freedom and the right to seek, obtain, and spread information and ideas, while Article 6 states the role of the press that includes conducting monitoring, criticism, correction, and giving suggestions with regard to matters related to the general publics interests.
Meanwhile, according to Article 8, journalists are protected by the law in carrying out their tasks.
"In view of that, the police, in handling the Tempo magazine case, must follow procedures used for dealing with journalistic dispute regulated in the Press Law," he emphasized.
He pointed out that the polices decision to process the Tempo case has provided an opportunity for the criminalization of the media and journalists, which is not only against the Press Law but also threatens the duties and functions of the press, which is an important pillar for upholding democracy in Indonesia.
"If the process of criminalizing the (Tempo) journalists and media for reporting on an alleged corruption case is continued, it will potentially threaten all media outfits and journalists in Indonesia," he stressed.
Meanwhile, PWI Chairman for Multimedia Priyambodo RH urged journalists to be alert regarding the Tempo case as it has the potential to hurt the freedom of press.
He stated that the challenge faced by Tempo could be an indication of the efforts to create a clash between journalists and the police or even a violation of memorandum of understanding inked by the Press Council and the Indonesian police.
"We must be careful because there is a tendency to create divisions. We have journalistic facts, the code of ethics, and the Press Law," he noted.
With regard to the Tempo issue, the AJI, IJTI, PWI, and LBH Pers called on the police to dissuade every effort from various parties intending to criminalize journalists.
The Tempo case must be handled in accordance with the Press Law, which has been included in the memorandum of understanding signed by the Press Council and the police.
Press circles have also urged the police to adhere to the decision of the Press Council with regard to the settlement of the Tempo case.
They also appealed to all parties, including officials and the general public, to always respect the role and tasks of the press in carrying out their profession, and if they are not satisfied with the medias reports, they must settle their differences based on the Press Law.
They also appealed to all journalists in Indonesia to use the journalistic code of ethics as a reference while carrying out their job.
(Reporting by Rangga Pandu Asmara Jingga/Uu.H-YH/INE/KR-BSR/A014)