INDONESIA: Press Council asks 3 publications to print apologies to Laksmana

Press Council requires three media outlets to publish apologies to State Minister for State Enterprises Laksamana Sukardi after their violation of the Code of Ethics of Indonesian Journalists

The Jakarta Post
Thursday, October 14, 2004

Three media outlets violated the Code of Ethics of Indonesian Journalists (KEWI) in publishing articles about State Minister for State Enterprises Laksamana Sukardi and therefore must apologize to him, the Press Council decided on Wednesday.

Press Council executive Sabam Leo Batubara said that the three -- Trust magazine, Nusa daily and the Reporter daily -- had violated the presumption of innocence principle in suggesting that Laksamana had left the country with more than US$100 million in state money.

"Based on the Press Council's [review], the three media groups violated the KEWI, and so, we recommend that each of them publish a public apology for Laksamana," Batubara told Antara in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara.

He said the article Laksamana, why should you run away? (Laksamana, kenapa harus kabur?) and the cover headline Uproar over Laksamana 'Running Away' written in the Sept. 27th-Oct. 3rd edition of Trust magazine were deemed to be disrespectful and violated the principle of innocent-until-proven-guilty as there was no supporting evidence within the articles.

The article Laksamana deserves to be incarcerated (Laksamana pantas ditangkap) published in the Sept. 28th edition of the Reporter daily was also considered a violation of the principle.

"The Reporter daily wrote that Laksamana was part of a "mafia" with a headline accusing him of crime. The police -- not journalists -- are the ones who have the right to determine whether or not a person is a criminal," said Batubara.

As for the Nusa daily, he said that its article Laksamana is rumored to have fled the country (Laksamana diisukan kabur ke luar negeri) and its lead item that accused Laksamana of fleeing the country with $125 million of state funds in its Sept. 24th edition was slanderous for quoting a source who sent the information via a short messaging service (SMS).

"The apology shall be placed on the same page of where the articles were published and it shall be at least the same size as the articles," he said.

Trust magazine chief editor Bambang Aji Setiady said his company had been told on Monday by the Press Council of the recommendation.

"We received a letter inviting us to meet with Laksamana on Friday at 9:30 a.m.," said Bambang.

He said that he would not mind making a public apology to Laksamana.

"But we demand fairness in this case. A lot of media, including Gatra magazine, had a week earlier reported similarly on Laksamana. Why are we the only ones who are to make a public apology?" he asked.

In the Sept. 25th edition of Gatra weekly, there were investigative reports that drew a link between a series of lottery-like quizzes about President Megawati Soekarnoputri's campaign with several state enterprises.

If they refuse the Press Council's recommendation, the media could be sued by Laksamana and pay Rp 100 billion (US$10.9 million) in material and non-material damages.

Laksamana filed a complaint to the Press Council last week against the media groups and Rakyat Merdeka and Indo Pos dailies for their articles, arguing that the articles were written based on rumors.