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LAST Saturday evening, on March 8, about four hours after the TEMPO office at Jl. Proklamasi 72 was protested by Tomy Winata's people, Ciputra, a member of PT Tempo Inti Media Tbk's (TIM Tbk) board of commissioners, drove to Tomy's East Ancol house in North Jakarta. Pak Ci--as he is familiarly called--was "invited" by Tomy to the house. Ciputra asked Daryanto Mangoenpratolo, an independent commissioner of TIM Tbk, and Leonardi Kusen, the company's CEO, to come along. The three were received by Tomy, who was dressed in boxer shorts and white T-shirt, in the fitness room of his very large home.

Tomy inquired about the report Getting Burned which appeared in TEMPO's March 4 edition. Ciputra explained that he was not involved with the magazine's editorial activities. Leonardi further clarified the policy of separating the business from the editorial activities. The person responsible for the business side is the CEO while the one in charge of the news is the chief editor. The meeting that night ended without any agreement, even though a number of reporters were on hand to shower them with questions.

On the following Monday, March 10, Ciputra met with Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso. As chairman of the Yayasan Jaya Raya foundation--the non-profit organization under the auspices of the Jakarta local government which owns some shares in TIM Tbk--Ciputra felt he needed to report the latest development. Exiting from the governor's office, Ciputra told waiting journalists that he regretted the TEMPO report on Tanah Abang. He also stated his willingness to be a mediator between TEMPO and Tomy Winata.

Ciputra is indeed a part of TEMPO, directly and indirectly, through PT Grafiti Pers and the Yayasan Jaya Raya foundation's 33 percent shares in this company (40 percent of the shares are owned by the employees through two foundations, and the rest are owned by PT Grafiti Pers and the public). However, as Ciputra explained to Tomy, he is not TEMPO's representative in the matter of news reporting. If he says he regrets the report on Tanah Abang, we consider that as Ciputra's personal initiative towards settling the issue.

Pak Ci, who has followed TEMPO's every move since 1971, surely understands well the separation of responsibilities within the company. This is in accordance with Law 40/1999, Article 12 on the Press, but this is also a TEMPO tradition since thismagazine was born long before the enactment of that press law. The editorial board has, from the very beginning, been given full autonomy to manage editorial activities. This is important to avoid pressures from the business world which at times come into conflict with editorial concerns, such as the placing of advertisements with conditions to go "soft" on certain news reports.

In other words, the editorial board is independent. This independence is reflected in the current case. Journalists and non-editorial employees, and other TEMPO shareholders, have formed the TEMPO Journalists and Workers Association. They have joined tens of other organizations which reject violence and terror tactics of thugs used against the media. The association also requested the TEMPO management to maintain the company's integrity by fighting through legal channels to combat the Saturday, March 8 violence.

We respect Ciputra. But we cannot ignore the swell of support to protect freedom of the press. Freedom of speech is what we have been fighting for since 1994, which earned us a ban and a court beating by former Information Minister Harmoko at the Supreme Court. It is the same this time around--TEMPO will strongly defend its freedom of speech.

This is not because Ahmad Taufik was dragged around by the protesters, or that Karaniya, Bambang Harymurti and Abdul Manan suffered the indignity of being beaten up. This is not even because of the dirty and crass words thrown at us, as well as the threats, intimidation and the insults we received ("Ah, you're just a ... journalist writing for money, when you're through writing you ask my boss for payment..."). The treatment we received is perhaps nothing compared to what journalists in conflict areas like Aceh, Papua and others go through.

What we are protesting is the attitude of the police force in allowing this violence to take place, even when it happened at the Central Jakarta Police Headquarters. If the police, who are responsible for the protection of journalists (according to the law) are ineffective, or pretend not to know a beating is taking place, then journalism is indeed in great danger. Whoever is unhappy with a news report can easily abuse, torture and judge the responsible reporters. Playing by the legal rules would be replaced by the language of beatings and torture so typical of common thugs. We consider this to be the most serious threat towards the responsibility of the press to provide the public with credible and balanced information.

Certainly, journalists are not mistake-free. The journalist can make mistakes, deviating from facts. But he or she would be liable for violating the law on the press, rules of the game that have been agreed upon by the public and the government. And it is the job of the police to ensure this is followed.

It is fortunate that the police became aware of their "tardiness" in handling the situation. The Saturday, March 8 incident has now been processed by the police without waiting for chief editor Bambang Harymurti to file a claim with the police. Last Friday, David alias A Miaw, who led the protest, was indicted.

With regards to our legal case, we have the support of a team of lawyers, among them Todung Mulya Lubis, Trimoelja D. Soerjadi and Bambang Widjojanto.

Lastly, we would like to express our gratitude for all the support given by fellow journalists throughout Indonesia, students, media professional organizations and other professional associations, which held solidarity actions everywhere. Also to those who have sent us letters, faxes, e-mails almost constantly. Your support means a great deal to us.

TEMPO, MARCH 24, 2003-028/P. 06 Heading Letter from the Editor

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