Friday 1.12.2017 in Latest Developments
On 9th October 2017, police from Banyumas Police Station, along with Civil Service Police Unit (Satpol PP), brutally attacked peaceful protesters at an assembly against a Geothermal Power Plant (PLTPB) on Slamet mountain in Central Java Project. After gathering at around 8am in the morning, participants proceeded to the office of Banyumas Regent, where they conducted prayers outside the office. At around 10am, Indonesian security forces illegally disrupted the protest and arrested 24 individuals. While the protesters were later released, at least two people were admitted to the hospital. Reports from the ground note that a journalist covering the protest was beaten by security forces who later confiscated the journalist's camera and destroyed evidence of the confrontation. CIVICUS Monitor partner, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) commented on the chilling impact of the incident, stating that:
"The violence and illegal arrests by the authorities have resulted in three significant outcomes: very serious trauma of the protesters, further distrust of legitimate authority and putting in danger the development of democracy in Indonesia".
AHRC also noted that the local community is heavily dependent on the local environment and the plant's construction poses a serious danger to the ecosystem. At the time of writing, no investigation into the incident had been initated.
In a separate incident on 20th October 2017, Mr. Panji Bahari a journalist with Banten Post, was brutally attacked and arrested by police from Serang City Police Office (Polres Serang Kota), while he was covering a student protest. Bahari was pushed between police and protesters, then kicked, beaten and punched by Indonesian security forces. Despite having his journalist identity card, he was unable to communicate that he was a media worker as his neck was being strangled. Footage of the confrontation was captured in the video below:
Bahari filed a complaint with the Banten Regional Police Office. According to the chief of Serang City Police, a potential perpetrator had been detained for further investigation. Local police authorities have opened an investigation into the incident.
On 11th November 2017, Mr. Saldi Hermanto, a journalist of Salam Papua and Okezone News, was attacked and arrested by police from the Mimika Police Office (Polres Mimika) in Papua after he wrote on Facebook criticising the police for failing to prevent a riot in the night market of Timika Indah, Papua. Saldi’s criticism angered the police officers, some of whom felt he had humiliated and offended the institution, which spurred them to find and assault Hermanto. In a statement, AHRC described the assault, stating that:
“The brutal attack caused serious injuries on Hermanto’s face and right rib, and Hermanto had difficulty breathing after the attack”.
While an investigation into the incident is ongoing, eight police officers from the Mimika Police Office have been charged in connection to the attack. The incident comes at a time when freedom of expression advocates have noted a worrying increase in the number of recorded attacks against journalists. Over the course of 2016, Independence Journalist Alliance Indonesia documented 78 violent attacks against media workers, a marked increase from the previous year.