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Indonesia-Aceh 12 December 2003

Army harassment forces Aceh-based biweekly to close

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) today condemned army harassment of an independent biweekly in the troubled province of Aceh, Beudoh, which forced it to suspend publishing.

The newspaper’s editor, known as Maarif, went into hiding after being interrogated for 10 hours on 5 December by military intelligence officers in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh about the content of some of its reports.

Reporters Without Borders called on defence minister Matori Abdul Djalil to do everything possible to ensure that the biweekly is able to resume publishing and that the safety of its journalists is guaranteed.

In an article that appeared at the end of November, headlined "The Acehnese people do not need elections," the biweekly criticised the government’s decision to maintain martial law in Aceh and questioned the legitimacy of elections scheduled for next year.

Maarif told the Associated Press that the intelligence officers roughed him up and threatened to kill him if he did not change the newspaper’s editorial line. "To change our biweekly’s line is impossible because it is against our policy," he said. Launched in March, Beudoh is opposed to martial law.

Maarif said he also refused to comply with a request from the army officers to publish an apology and to sign a letter recognising that he had published false information.

According to the Jakarta Post, the military authorities denied banning the newspaper and said they just summoned the editor to explain to him that its content was "provocative."

In a recent report entitled "Muzzling the Messengers," Human Rights Watch has documented dozens of arrests, physical attacks and threats against journalists since the Indonesian government renewed its war on the GAM armed separatist movement on 19 May. Since the fighting resumed, Gen. Endang Surawaya has banned the news media from reporting what the rebels say.

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