THE building on 7x9 square meters of land on Jalan KH Noer Ali, Bekasi, has changed names. In thepast the building had a sign with “Peta” written on it. Today, it’s been replaced by “Niaga Bisnis.”“The Peta tabloid has closed down its business,” said Billy Rumengan, former reporter of thetabloid. Today, he’s the deputy chief of the Niaga Bisnis tabloid.
Peta is one of the three Indonesian mass media to publish the Prophet Mohammad cartoon ran by Danish daily Jyllands Posten. The cartoon was published in its February 6, 2006 edition, with a circulation of around 2,000 copies. Hundreds of people from the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) came to Peta’s office. They demanded the tabloid be withdrawn and its management apologize.
The requests were met. However, FPI still processed the case to the police. Editor in Chief of Peta, Wahab Adi, and Operational Manager Cepi Ganjar Gumiwang were summoned by the police. Since then the two have been going back and forth, for interrogation. The tabloid ran out of steam. “One week after FPI’s visit, our tabloid closed down,” said Billy.
At the beginning of March, the police handed over the case dossier to the Bekasi Prosecutor’s Office. If all goes well, the case will be brought to trial this week. “We charged the two of them with insulting a religion,” said Prosecutor Hedi Muhwanto.
In Surabaya, the Gloria tabloid ran similar cartoons. Their fate, however, was not as bad as Peta’s. Gloria ran five cartoons in its February edition. As soon as there were condemnations from the public, Gloria’s management pulled the tabloid. They also apologized immediately. “We pulled the tabloid before there was any demonstration,” said Editor in Chief of Gloria, Da Silva.
Gloria continues to publish with a circulation of 8,000 copies. “We managed to settle the case peacefully,” said Da Silva. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that the matter was closed. According to the head of the Surabaya Police Criminal Research Unit, Adj. Sr. Comr. Mujiono, the police are still looking into the case.
In neighboring country Malaysia, the media also suffered the same fate. The Sarawak Tribune was muzzled by the government after the newspaper appearing in East Malaysia published the cartoon.
Senior reporter Atmakusumah Astraatmadja believed that such a case should not be brought to trial. According to the former head of the Press Council, the issue should have been resolved at debate level. “The problem is, Indonesia still has articles on insults in the Criminal Code,” said Atmakusumah. In other countries, these articles have been removed.
AM, Siswanto (Bekasi) Sunudyantoro and Kukuh S. Wibowo (Surabaya)
Tempo Magazine, No. 01/VII/Sept 05 - 11, 2006