LONDON, Oct. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- The member groups of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations express their deep concern over the continued persecution in Indonesia of Erwin Arnada, who was the editor of the Indonesian edition of Playboy magazine, which has not been published since 2007, over charges that two courts had ruled to be unfounded. This statement is also endorsed by the American Society of Magazine Editors.
The Indonesian attorney general's office brushed aside the court findings that there was nothing indecent in the magazine, which we understand did not publish any nude photographs. The South Jakarta District Court ruled in 2007 and an appeals court subsequently confirmed the ruling that Arnada was not guilty of charges of perpetrating indecency. The government prosecutor nevertheless appealed to Indonesia's Supreme Court and obtained a two-year prison sentence that the Supreme Court is now reviewing on a new appeal by the defence.
Since Arnada has cooperated with judicial authorities at every stage of the proceedings, it is hard to escape the conclusion that imprisoning him pending the outcome of the review is in fact a form of political harassment.
We do understand that the Indonesian society may enforce its own standards of decency; however this must be done with full respect for international standards on press freedom and freedom of expression, to which Indonesia has subscribed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international agreements.
Indonesia already has legal instruments to deal with media content deemed indecent. Indonesia's 1999 Press Law deals with indecency in media content, and, as noted by the Jakarta Post in an article on Aug. 26, "it provides authorities necessary leeway to resolve media cases without jailing journalists."
We therefore urge the Indonesian Supreme Court to refer to the country's Press Law rather than the Criminal Code in reviewing Arnada's sentence and to take into consideration that a prison sentence would not only violate international standards on press freedom, but would also have a chilling effect on press freedom in Indonesia.
If the Indonesian attorney general succeeds in what appears as an attempt to enlarge a questionable interpretation of indecency and in using Arnada as an example, this would set a harmful precedent for press freedom in Indonesia.
We urge the authorities to release Arnada immediately since no legal purpose is served by jailing him pending judicial review. Arnada has cooperated with judicial authorities at every stage of the proceedings, including turning himself in on Oct. 9, and it is hard to escape the conclusion that imprisoning him pending the outcome of the review is in fact a form of political harassment.
FIPP works for the benefit of consumer, customer and business media providers around the world, focusing its activities on freedom of the press, intellectual property, information provision, freedom to advertise, freedom of distribution and environmental protection. Today, FIPP has more than 800 members, including subsidiaries, across 68 countries consisting of 53 national associations, 560 publishing companies and 213 associate companies. FIPP represents more than 6,000 member magazine titles which include almost all of the world's leading magazine brands. For more information, visit fipp.com.