No jail for libel case, please

The Jakarta Post
Friday, June 6, 2008

 

Two journalists who received prison sentences for defamation have submitted revisions to their request for the Constitutional Court to review four articles in the Criminal Code that they claim can be used to silence the press.

 

The petitioners, Risang Bima Wijaya and Bersihar Lubis, were represented by lawyer Anggara from the Legal Aid Institute for Press (LBH Pers) during a second pretrial hearing Thursday.

 

The LBH Pers said its clients were petitioning the court to review Articles 207, 310(1,2), 311(1) and 316 of the Criminal Code.

 

At the hearing, the LBH Pers provided more information on the petitioners’ lost constitutional rights and the focus of their request for a judicial review of Articles 207 and 316, which deal with defamation and libel, as demanded by the court in the previous session on May 22.

 

Anggara said the aim of the petitioners’ request was for jail sentences to be removed from the reviewed articles.

 

Under Articles 310(1,2) and 311(1), those found guilty of defamation or libel face jail terms of up to four years.

 

The petitioners said the court should also review Articles 207 and 316 because they provided “special treatment and protection” to state officials and could harm freedom of expression.

 

“We ask the court to remove the jail sentences from these articles, as the penalties have harmed the petitioners’ constitutional right to freedom of expression,” Anggara said.

 

He argued jail sentences for those convicted of defamation and libel violated the 2005 law ratifying the international covenant on civil and political rights.

 

Risang, a journalist with Radar Jogja newspaper, is serving a six-month jail term after the Sleman District Court convicted him earlier this month for insulting PT Kedaulatan Rakyat director Sumadi M. Wonohito in an article on sexual harassment.

 

Bersihar, a columnist with daily newspaper Koran Tempo, was given a suspended one-month prison term by the Depok District Court for his opinion article criticizing the Attorney General’s Office for its decision to ban a history textbook.

 

Risang said the six-month jail sentence had cost him his constitutional right to work and remuneration of around Rp 15,750,000 (US$1,960).

 

Constitutional Court judge I Dewa Gede Palguna said the petitioners’ request would be discussed by the panel of judges to decide whether to proceed with the trial.

 

Anggara told reporters after the hearing he was confident the court would approve the review request.

“Basically, we just want the court to review and remove jail penalties from those articles and replace them with material penalties,” he said.

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