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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Indonesia editor jailed for libel
Tempo editor Bambang Harymurti 16/9/04
Mr Harymurti remains free pending an appeal
The editor of a prominent Indonesian magazine has been sentenced to jail after a high-profile libel case.

Tempo magazine editor Bambang Harymurti was found guilty of libelling a prominent businessman, Tomy Winata.

The case has caused concern because the charges were brought under Indonesia's criminal code, not its press law.

Correspondents say the sentence will be seen as a setback for media freedom in Indonesia, and as further evidence of the country's erratic legal system.

The offending article, written in March 2003, alleged that Mr Winata was behind a mysterious fire that destroyed a Jakarta textile market.

It implied that the tycoon stood to gain from a contract to rebuild the market.

"We find the defendant guilty of disseminating libellous news and sentence him to one year in jail," Judge Suripto told Mr Harymurti on Thursday.

Two other reporters from the magazine - deputy editor Iskandar Ali and Ahmad Taufik - were acquitted on the same charges.

The court ruled that "the responsibility lies in the hands of the chief editor".

The packed courtroom booed when the verdict was read out.

Mr Harymurti - who is free pending an appeal - said it was a sad day for Indonesia's press.

"The judges had a golden opportunity to write a new chapter in Indonesian history, but they did not take it," he said. "Chief editors will be scared to do their jobs now."

The case against the three men has been widely criticised as an attack on Indonesia's press.

Tempo, which is highly regarded in Indonesia for its hard-hitting investigative journalism, insisted that it had gone through all proper procedures to balance the story, including running Mr Winata's point of view.

Thursday's verdict comes as tensions are already high ahead of the final round of Indonesia's presidential elections on Monday.

Former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is leading incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri in the opinion polls.

Profile: Indonesia's pioneering magazine
14 Sep 04  |  Asia-Pacific


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