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