Home > South-East Asia >> Indonesia

No Independent union for journalists either

"I think the move is correct", said Suharto crony and Information Minister Harmoko. Harmoko, quoted in the Indonesian Observer of March 20, 1995 was commenting on the call by the Suharto regime's puppet jounralist union that newspapers sack 13 members of the recently founded Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI). Harmoko virtually runs the puppet Indonesian Journalists Union (PWI) by decree.

Harmoko and other members of his family have also become a shareholder in virtually every Indonesian newspaper and magazine during his term as Minister. Publishing companies must obtain a Publishers Permit from the Minister. On March 16 the police also arrested Ahmad Taufik, AJI presidium chairman, on charges on "sowing the seeds of public discontent" through AJI's monthly journal Independen. Also were arrested were AJI member and researcher Eko Maryadi and the AJI office assistant, Danang.

Single journalists union

The PWI's call for the sackings was made at a press conference on March 18. Echoing the dictatorship's general policy of allowing only its own puppet unions, Jakarta PWI Chairman Tarman Azzam stated: "They [the 13 journalists] signed the Sirnagalih Declaration which denies the principle of a single journalist union in Indonesia." This is the same policy carried out by the dictatorship and its puppet union federation, the SPSI (All Indonesia Workers Union) as regards attempts to build indepent unions in other areas.

The Sirnagalih Declaration was the founding document for AJI. AJI was formed in August, 1994 when the PWI refused to condemn the dictatorship's banning in June, 1994 of Indonesia's three major news weeklies, Tempo, DeTik and Editor. Azzam told editors at a National Press Day celebration recently that editors should sack AJI members as soon as possible, before the PWI revokes its recommendation of them as editors. Azzam revoked the PWI recommendation of the editor of Simponi weekly last year, prompting its closure.

International protests

The International Federation of Journalists expressed astonsihment at the PWI statements against the independent journalists. "A professional journalist organisation has a duty to protect the right of all colleagues to speak freely and to serve the cause of press freedom.." AIdan White, IFJ General Secretary also said that a delegation of of journalists will visit Indonesia in the coming days to provide solidarity with Indonesian journalists in their struggle for press freedom.

Chris Warren, Joint Federal Secretary of the Media Entertainment and ARts Alliance wrote to Foreign Minister Gareth Evans on March 17 expressing grave concern about the arrests of the AJI members. Warren also asked the Australian Government to lodge a protest with the Indonesian Government over the arrests and to seek assurances that AJI will not face further government harassment.

Home | Site Map | Calendar & Events | News Services | Resources & Links | Contact Us