Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Journalists protest over recurring violence

National News - April 17, 2007

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan

Journalists from different media organizations in North Sumatra rallied Monday at the provincial legislative council in Medan to draw attention to the fate of one of their colleagues, who has been in police detention for nearly a month.

Medan Bisnis daily reporter Samsudin Harahap, 45, has been detained by police in the city of Pematang Siantar, about 80 kilometers from Medan, since March 22, after allegedly being physically assaulted by military soldiers and public order officers.

The protesters accused authorities of assaulting and locking up Samsudin because they objected to his coverage of their policies.

Samsudin's wife, Siti Hawa, 42, who took part in the protest, said her husband went to the official residence of Pematang Siantar Mayor RE Siahaan at 11:30 a.m. on March 21, to confirm a story he was writing.

Siti said her husband avoided security guards and entered the house without permission, because he was having trouble pinning the mayor down for confirmation.

She said Samsudin was able to meet the mayor, after which he apologized for entering the house without permission. Samsudin reportedly left the house, but a short time later was contacted and asked to return to meet the mayor again.

However, when he arrived at the mayor's house this second time, Siti said her husband was seized and held at the security post. She claims several plainclothes military personnel and public order officers arrived at the house and assaulted Samsudin.

Siti said when the incident occurred there were three other journalists at the scene, but police only arrested Samsudin.

"I demand my husband be freed. This is not fair because he is the victim of a conspiracy between state officials in Pematang Siantar," Siti told The Jakarta Post.

Edrin Adriansyah, from the Legal Aid Institute for the Media, said what was happening to Samsudin was an attempt by local officials in Pematang Siantar to silence the press.

Managing editor of Medan Bisnis, Erwinsyah, said Samsudin was a sharp journalist who often wrote critically of the policies of the mayor, including reporting on a 21 percent cut in project funds, a policy that upset contractors in Pematang Siantar.

The newspaper also reported on an alleged conspiracy surrounding the tender for the renovation of the Pematang Siantar General Hospital, with the mayor's name coming up in connection with the case.



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