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Indonesia

Two Indonesian journalists found dead in Sumatra

Murders thought to be linked to role in land dispute between local people and palm oil firm

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Two Indonesian journalists found dead in Sumatra

Independent Journalist Alliance members stage a street protest against violence against journalists on World Press Freedom Day on May 3. (Photo by Konradus Epa/ucanews)

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Police in Indonesia have launched a murder hunt after two journalists were found hacked to death in North Sumatra province.

Maraden Sianipar, 55, and Martua P. Siregar, 42 worked for Pindo Merdeka, a Medan-based news weekly, but were known for their activism.   

Sianipar's body was found on Oct. 30, while Martua was found a day later on land owned by Sai Ali Barombang, a palm oil plantation company near Wonosari, a village in Labuhan Batu district. Both had been stabbed repeatedly.

Police believe their deaths are linked to their activism but said they have found no evidence so far to back this up.  

Local media linked their deaths to their coverage of a land dispute between residents and Sai Ali Barombang, which saw the land taken over by North Sumatra’s Forestry Affairs Agency.

Shortly before their deaths, the pair were planning to meet with local officials to persuade them to allow farmers to use the land.

News of their deaths drew condemnation from journalist associations. 

"We call on law enforcers to conduct a thorough investigation into their deaths,” said Revolusi Riza, general secretary of the Independent Journalist Alliance. “Violence against journalists must end.” 

He said the two killings are all the more disturbing as they come amid an upsurge in violence directed against journalists over the last two years, from 60 recorded cases in 2017 to 80 last year.

“The violence comes in various forms from intimidation and beatings all the way up to murder,” he said. 

Hermansjah, chairman of the Indonesian Journalists Association in North Sumatra, called on police to bring the masterminds behind the two murders to justice. "They have to be punished accordingly,” he told ucanews.

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