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Indonesian groups unite to boost protection for journalists

Human rights, media organizations set up 'Journalist Safety Committee' in bid to battle against attacks on the press

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Indonesian groups unite to boost protection for journalists

Members of the Alliance of Independent Journalists stage a protest near the presidential palace in Jakarta in this file photo. Indonesian human rights groups and press agencies have just formed a special committee to promote the protection for journalists. (Photo by Konradus Epa/ucanews.com)

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Human rights groups and journalist associations in Indonesia have established a committee tasked with trying to protect journalists and address rising violence and persecution directed against media workers.

The Journalist Safety Committee comprises nine groups and includes Amnesty International Indonesia, Legal Aid Institute, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Indonesian Television Journalist Association and the Indonesian Media Workers Federation.

According to the AJI, there were at least 64 violent attacks on Indonesian journalists in 2018, up from 60 the previous year.

“Much of this recent violence has been driven by increasing intolerance,” Abdul Manan, AJI chairman and one of the committee founders, told The Jakarta Post on April 8.

Gading Yonggar Ditya of the Legal Aid Institute for the Press, another founder, said the groups decided to join together as presenting a united front would be more effective in combating violence against journalists.

“Our goal is to overcome and fight for our journalists,” Ditya told ucanews.com.

“Previously, each organization struggled on their own to handle certain cases, but now we can collaborate with all resources we have to resolve any case,” he said.

Violence and persecution against journalists include, threats, beatings, being physically thrown out of events, imprisonment and, being subjected to hate campaigns on social media.

He and Manan pointed to a number of journalists being assaulted or removed while covering political events including a 212 Munajat prayer meeting at the National Monument in Jakarta on Feb. 21.

The 212 Munajat prayer refers to a prayer movement set up in 2016 by hard-line Islamic groups including the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and Islamic People Forum (FUI) to demand Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the former Christian Jakarta governor, be jailed for blasphemy.

“The press is a pillar of democracy, and it is very important that they retain their independence, free from persecution and threats,” Ditya said, adding that any journalist confronted with violence can report it to the committee.

Press Council chairman Yosep Stanley Adi Prasetyo was confident the panel would help reduce violence against journalists.

"We hope for a better future for our journalists, where there is no more violence against them,” he said.

Alex Marten, a journalist, said the safety committee is a good initiative, because many journalists are not protected legally.

“Its presence can make us feel more secure in carrying out our jobs,” he said.

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