JAKARTA: A court yesterday ordered several police officers, including the national police chief, to publicly apologise to the Tempo magazine for turning a blind eye to assaults on the weekly's reporters.
Judge Iskandar Tjakke of the Central Jakarta district court said the defendants in a lawsuit filed by the Alliance of Independent Journalists (Aji) must “convey a public apology” to Aji and Tempo reporters.
The defendants are the national police chief General Da'i Bachtiar, Jakarta police chief Inspector-General Makbul Padmanegara and the heads of the Central Jakarta district and Menteng sub-district police.
The apology for their “negligence” during a protest against Tempo by supporters of businessman Tomi Winata on March 8 should be published in print and electronic media, the judge ruled.
Aji said the police knew about the protest and were present nearby when a mob of about 100 men went to the Tempo office to protest an article suggesting that Winata was linked to a fire at Jakarta's main textile market in February.
Winata, who has strong ties with the military, denied the allegation.
A journalist was assaulted by the mob while police stood by.
Another reporter was injured when a protester threw a wooden box at him.
The magazine editor and a journalist were attacked by some protesters later the same day while they were at the nearby police station to try to negotiate with the protesters.
Two protesters have been indicted and tried for assault.
One was cleared of all charges and the other received a five-month suspended sentence.
Winata filed a defamation suit against Tempo's senior editor and co-founder Gunawan Mohamad after he allegedly published a headline calling the businessman a “thug.”
Winata had asked another district court to seize all assets of the magazine and its sister company PT Koran Tempo.
Indonesia's media was tightly controlled during the 32-year autocratic rule of Suharto and Tempo was shut down in 1994.
Since Suharto's resignation in May 1998, a vigorous free press has emerged.
But media watchdog groups criticised the increasing number of lawsuits by public officials and others for alleged defamation. – AFP