Indon court overturns defamation verdicts

JAKARTA: An Indonesian appeal court has overturned two defamation verdicts against a prominent publishing group which had sparked fears that press freedom was being eroded, the group reported yesterday. 

Koran Tempo daily said the Jakarta High Court had overturned two district court decisions involving articles in Tempo group publications about prominent businessman Tomy Winata. 

The district court in March fined Tempo news magazine 500mil rupiah (RM224,200) for defaming Winata. A March 2003 article suggested Winata might have been involved in an arson attack on a giant Jakarta textile market which he allegedly wanted to redevelop. 

Tempo quoted Winata as denying the allegations. 

In January the court fined Koran Tempo US$1mil (RM3.8mil) for defaming Winata in an article about an alleged proposal to open a gambling business. 

Chief appeal court judge Harifin Tumpa was quoted as saying the lower court erred in using the criminal code rather than Indonesia's press law to decide the cases. 

Winata's lawyer O.C. Kaligis accused Supreme Court judge Bagir Manan of intervening in the judicial process by urging his judges to use the press law to settle media cases. 

“It will be easy to slander anybody because the press can't be brought to justice,” Kaligis said. – AFP  

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