Caught on tape: Indonesian journalist assaulted by army officer

 
On October 16, several Indonesian photojournalists were beaten up by army officers while they were taking pictures at the scene of a military plane crash. TV journalists at the scene filmed the incident, and the footage clearly shows a photographer for a local newspaper being attacked by a man in uniform.
 
The attack on Didik Herwanto, a photojournalist for the local Riau Pos Daily, was filmed by a cameraman from a local television channel who was also there to cover the plane crash. The video, shown on Riau TV, shows a man in uniform kicking the journalist before tackling him to the ground and punching him while another officer grabs the camera from the photographer’s hands.
 
 
Military officers also stand accused of assaulting and confiscating the equipment of four other journalists that day: Andika Pratama (Vokal Daily), FB Rian Anggoro (Antara News Agency), Robi Fahrianto(Riau TV) and M. Arifin (TV One). Footage of the attack has angered Indonesian journalists, who have organised protests in several cities to demand justice for their colleagues. In Pekanbaru, demonstrators gathered outside the air force base on October 19, calling for an investigation. In addition, a group of journalists from the island of Java has called for a media boycott of all army activities.
 
Photo posted on the Twitter account of Didik Herwanto showing his colleagues together in a show of support.

The head of Indonesia's armed forces, Commander Agus Suhartono, eventually apologised to the press and promised to bring the soldiers responsible to justice. According to Andrea Harsono, an Indonesian journalist and representative for Human Rights Watch, the abuse of power by the military is commonplace in Indonesia.
 
The country is ranked 146 out of 179 countries on the 2011/2012 global press freedom rankings established by Reporters Without Borders.
Contributors

“He shouted: ‘You bastard, someone is dead and you’re taking photos!”

Didik Herwanto is a photojournalist. He was beaten up on October 16.
   
It’s a good thing that the cameraman filmed the attack on me, not only for me but also for all other Indonesian journalists. Violence against journalists by the military is always hard to prove, even though it has existed for a long time.
 
It was around 9:30 in the morning. I had just woken up and was getting ready to take a shower when I heard a loud explosion that seemed to have happened very close to me. I quickly grabbed my camera and went towards the source of the explosion. The site of the crash was around 300 metres from my house. When I got there, I had no idea what had just happened. I just saw black smoke and crowds of people. So I began taking photos.
 
Some 20 minutes later, the military officers arrived. They told people to move away because they were afraid the wreckage would explode. People quickly moved away. I also retreated and stopped after about 50 metres to take a photo of firefighters who were approaching the scene from a helicopter.
 
Suddenly, an officer, a colonel lieutenant, ran towards me and struck me in the stomach. I tried to explain who I was, shouting several times: ‘I’m from Riau Pos! I’m from Riau Pos!” But he didn’t want to hear it. He told me: “You bastard, someone is dead and you’re taking photos!” As the footage shows, I was then tackled to the ground while someone shouted: ‘Take his camera’.
 
After this, I managed to stand up and I tried to cover my head to prevent more strikes. But other officers, around 10 or so I suppose, arrived and hit me until I fell again. They trampled on me like they were dancing. I couldn’t do anything except to protect my head by wrapping my arms around it. The agony continued until another officer intervened and put me in a car.
 
Journalists must be respected. A law on press freedom was put in place in 1999, but it will take some time before our profession is really respected by Indonesian society. I have decided to pursue this matter through the courts to make sure this incident is not forgotten.
  

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