Komnas HAM to probe shutdown of World Press Day event in Indonesia

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A trailer of the controversial documentary Pulau Buru Tanah Air Beta that tells the story of two political prisoners on Baru Island.

By Bambang Muryanto in Yogyakarta

Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) will investigate alleged human rights violations in the recent shutting down of World Press Freedom Day celebrations by the police and various conservative social organisations in Yogyakarta.

“Our monitoring sub-commission members will go to Yogyakarta to gather information and facts. We will meet all parties, including police personnel,” Komnas HAM chairman Imdadun Rahmat said yesterday in Yogyakarta .

He made the statement after receiving a report of the incident from the Yogyakarta chapter of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI).

It was earlier reported that police personnel and members of the Communication Forum of Indonesian Veterans’ Children (FKPPI), an association of families of retired military and police personnel, dispersed an event that was celebrating World Press Freedom Day, held by AJI Yogyakarta on Tuesday.

The police and FKPPI members said a documentary titled Pulau Buru Tanah Air Beta (Buru Island: My Homeland) about political prisoners, by Rahung Nasution, was screening at the event and had the potential to ignite conflict as it “contained communist teachings”.

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The police insisted the event had no permit although AJI Yogyakarta said it had sent an invitation to Yogyakarta police chief Brigadier-General Prasta Wahyu Hidayat and Yogyakarta City Police chief Senior Commander Pri Hartono Eling Lelakon.

“The Yogyakarta police chief has ordered that this activity be stopped,” Yogyakarta City Police head of operations Commander Sigit Haryadi said on Tuesday.

Two serious violations
Imdadun said two serious human rights violations had taken place. First, the shutting down of the event, and second, the expulsion of AJI Yogyakarta members and activists who insisted on staying at the AJI office after the event had been shut down on Tuesday evening.

“We will also see what rights have been violated in terms of violence. The result of our investigation will form the basis for recommendations we will submit to several government institutions,” he said.

If there was an ethics violation, the commissioner said, Komnas HAM would push the National Police to hold an ethics hearing. Or, it would bring the case to the general court if the violation could be categorised as a crime.

“The state must protect its citizens who want to meet or work anywhere they like. There should be no expulsion. It seems this country has no rules,” said Imdadun.

In an official statement, AJI Yogyakarta secretary Bhekti Suryani asked the government to be serious in handling the case and the violations perpetrated by the police officers. The police, Bhekti said, tended to take sides with intolerant groups.

“We urge the National Police chief [Gen. Badrodin Haiti] and the National Police Commission to evaluate the work performance of the Yogyakarta Police and all of their divisions, which have allied themselves with intolerant groups,” said Bhekti.

Yogyakarta-based Indonesian Islamic University Center for Human Rights Studies ( Pusham UII ) director Eko Riyadi symbolically expressed his condolences for the death of press freedom in Indonesia. He said the repression perpetrated by security authorities had exceeded the limits of what could be tolerated in a democratic country.

New rights era
“The shutdown has marked a new era where the police are very actively limiting human rights,” Eko said.

He called on Komnas HAM to investigate the case seriously because cases of intolerance were continuing to happen in Yogyakarta.

In the city, known as a “city of tolerance”, Eko said he had witnessed state apparatus instead form an “evil axis” with intolerant groups.

“The result [of the investigation] is not only aimed at dismissing either the Yogyakarta police chief or the Yogyakarta city police chief but also at improving the situation in Yogyakarta,” said Eko.

Meanwhile, a researcher from the Institution of Social and Islamic Study (LKIS), Hairus Salim, said the shutdown of the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day was really frightening and tense.

“There were many fully armed police personnel. They actually would’ve been quite strong enough to fight against the intolerant groups,” said Hairus.

He said he regretted that the police officers had refused to function as they should and protect the citizens being threatened with violence by the FKPPI.

Yogyakarta City Police head of operations Commander Sigit Haryadi argues at the Yogyakarta Alliance of Indonesian Journalists office prior to the shutting down of World Press Freedom Day celebrations on Tuesday. Image: Bambang Muryanto/Jakarta Post
Yogyakarta City Police head of operations Commander Sigit Haryadi argues at the Yogyakarta Alliance of Indonesian Journalists office prior to the shutting down of World Press Freedom Day celebrations on Tuesday. Image: Bambang Muryanto/Jakarta Post
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