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Bad time, bad news September 13, 2007

Posted by natasha in LITERATURE REVIEW.
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Another snipet from The Jakarta Post editorial:

“…The Supreme Court, which has been beset with allegations of corruption, has again shot itself in the foot. The three justices on the panel hearing the Time case overturned earlier rulings by district and high courts, both of which dismissed the lawsuit filed by Soeharto.

This inconsistency between the lower courts and the highest court of the land defies logic. It fuels speculation that justice goes to the highest bidder, or in this particular case, to the more politically connected.

The Supreme Court is doing itself a great disservice. This was the same court that last year acquitted Tempo editors on criminal defamation charges, insisting that anyone with a complaint against the media must refer to the 1999 Press Law. That law accommodates the right of reply for those who feel defamed.

This is a legal course that Soeharto (or his lawyers) never pursued with Time. The celebrated 2006 ruling for Tempo should have been considered by the justices who heard Soeharto vs. Time case.

The latest Supreme Court ruling will have a chilling effect on the media and the journalism profession. No media outlet has the kind of money that the court ordered Time to pay, and most would fold under such a ruling. Many newsrooms will now shy away from reporting controversial stories or conducting their own investigations into corruption scandals and other forms of abuse. Public interest, the people’s right to know, has been severely damaged.

The Indonesian media, freed from the censorship and harassment that Soeharto inflicted during his 30-year reign, has played a role in unveiling and reporting power abuse scandals since the end of the corrupt New Order regime in 1998.

Tempo magazine, one of the few local publications with a strong investigative reporting tradition, has uncovered many cases of abuses of power before the authorities stepped in. Consider it one of the public duties of the media in a democracy.

Time‘s 1999 articles headlined “Soeharto Inc.” should be seen as part of the drive to make the former president and his children accountable for their actions. The article sought to answer the question that was in the minds of many people, then and today: how much money is the Cendana family worth, and how much of that wealth is legitimate?

More than nine years after he stepped down, Soeharto remains a free man, as do his children who continue to control the business empires they built during the reign of their father largely through family connections.

Once again, the Indonesian people are the losers. Soeharto and his children may soon be laughing all the way to the bank to cash in the Time check. Even though he is no longer president, Soeharto has outwitted us once again, with the help of friends still in powerful places.”

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