New committee in Indonesia to boost journalist safety

For the first time, media stakeholders in Indonesia unite to boost the safety of journalists with a dedicated safety committee

For the first time, media stakeholders in Indonesia unite to boost the safety of journalists with a dedicated safety committee

Ten journalist organisations, with the support of IMS, have launched a Committee of Journalist Safety on 5 April 2019 following a Press Council Hall meeting in Jakarta. The decision was made in the run-up to the country’s elections in end April. This is the country’s first ever mobilising of media stakeholders on the issue of safety of journalists.

The Committee is a result of a national risk mapping workshop and a stakeholder consultations that have been conducted with the support and guidance of IMS over the past six months. The newly established Committee will provide a safety net for journalists focusing on the upcoming elections in Indonesia in April.

The ten organisations involved are the Independent Journalist Alliance (AJI), Indonesian Television Journalist Association (IJTI), Press Legal Aid (LBH Pers), SafeNet, Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), Indonesia Cyber Media Association (AMSI), Independent Media Worker Federation (FSPMI), Amnesty International Indonesia, Media and Creative Industry Worker Association for Democracy, and International Media Support (IMS) as partner in a protection of journalists’ programme. AJI will function as the secretariat to the Committee. The Indonesian Press Council will act as overarching “umbreall” organisation for the Committee.

The Indonesian safety programme efforts will follow the recommendations provided in IMS’ flagship publication Defending Journalism which was published in 2018 and included a chapter on the ongoing work to improve the safety of journalists in Indonesia.

In 2016, the Independent Journalist Alliance (AJI) recorded 81 cases of violence against journalists, while in 2017 there were 60 cases and 65 cases in 2018. The violence was both physical, as well as symbolically conveyed in the shape of threats. Despite the  high numbers of violence against journalists, Indonesia so far has had no mechanism to handle such incidents. When cases come about, there has been no systematised or coordinated way in which to deal with them, only sporadic responses from organisations such as AJI and Press Legal Aid (LBH Pers).

To develop consensus around what was needed to improve the safety of journalists, a stakeholder consultation involving a number of the 10 organisations was held and the need for a rapid response mechanism supported by IMS was voiced. Amongst the 70 participants was Yosep Adi Prasetyo (Stanley), chairman of Press Council, and Ade Wahyudin, director of Press Legal Aid. The Press Council Chair appreciated the effort as the issue falls under the Council’s mandate.

“Press Council will take the position as the “umbrella” for this Committee and we will have a special task force to protect journalists,” he said.

Ade Wahyudin said LBH Pers would play their role in legal aspects with both litigation and non-litigation. The Committee will work in specific areas including prevention and post-case management. The latter includes litigation, stakeholder relationships including with the police, protection of the families, safe house management, and financial help for victims. The Committee raises funds from its member organisations, Press Council allocations, and other donations. 

Representatives of organisation members of the Committee signed a Memorandum of Understanding as a symbol of their intention to fight violence against journalists.

The ongoing efforts to establish a nationally anchored safety mechanism for media in Indonesia is part of IMS’ Global Safety Programme that works to strengthen coordinated, locally led approaches to improving the safety of journalists. IMS’ work in Indonesia is also partly supported by the Danish Government through the Strategic Partnership Agreement.