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Indonesia 10 May 2005

Two journalists jailed as government seeks to tighten criminal law

Reporters Without Borders condemned nine-month prison sentences for defamation handed down on 4 May 2005 to Darwin Ruslinur and Budiono Syahputr a, respectively chief editor and managing editor of the Sumatra weekly Lampung’s Koridor.

The organisation called on the Indonesian authorities to annul the archaic law dating back to the colonial era that provides for prison sentences in defamation cases. The law, put in place to silence dissidents and pro-independence movements, is still regularly used by the courts.

Ruslinur and Syahputra were found guilty of defaming Alzier Dianis Thabranie, president of the Lampung branch of the Golkar party (of former President Suharto) in an article accusing him of embezzlement. The court ruled that the journalists had not checked their facts with Alzier himself.

These sentences are all the more shocking since they come at a time when the government is proposing a new criminal code that will allow legal action against journalists who write articles, among others, violating a ban on preaching communist doctrine or disclosing state secrets. Any infringement is punishable with jail sentences of up to seven years.




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