Police urged to solve journalist murder case

The Yogyakarta branch of the Alliance of Independent Journalists’ (AJI) has called for the reopening of the murder case of journalist Fuad Muhamad Syafruddin, popularly known as Udin.

They voiced their demands over the weekend in a meeting where they elected Pito Agustin of Koran Tempo daily and Masjidi of Hidayatullah magazine as the new chairman and secretary, respectively, for the 2010-2013 term.

“We have given the police numerous leads, but none seems to have been followed up. It’s been 14 years. They have had plenty of time to solve the case,” outgoing branch chairman Bambang Muryanto said.

Udin, a journalist with Bernas daily, was beaten unconscious on Aug. 13, 1996, reportedly because of his critical reports on various misappropriations implicating local administration officials and figures.

He died three days later.

The case will expire in 2014, 18 years after the incident.

The police had named Dwi Sumaji as a murder suspect but he was acquitted by the Bantul District Court, which cited a lack of evidence.

The trial itself drew controversy, with critics calling it fixed.

Since the trial, no significant development has been made in the case. The police have insisted that unless new evidence was presented, they could not continue the investigation.

AJI has challenged the police assertions, saying that there have been abundant findings that the police could use to solve the case.

“They cannot just wait for new evidence to emerge. It’s too long [since the murder] to expect new evidence to emerge.

Why don’t they just use the existing leads to bring the case to light,” AJI member Heru Prasetya said.

Other outcomes of the AJI conference, held every three years, included a call to mass media publishers in Yogyakarta to provide their journalists with a minimum monthly salary of Rp 2,728,483.

“Based on a survey we conducted at the end of 2008, this is the reasonable salary for a single journalist living in Yogyakarta. For those who have families, the amount is certainly higher,” Bambang Muryanto said.

The conference also demanded mass media publishers improve their journalists’ professional skills, fulfill their rights for holidays and promote the establishment of press workers’ associations in their respective companies.

”We also urge them to create a gender-sensitive milieu in the workplace and provide sufficient knowledge and skill to cover events with minimum security standards,” conference participant Masduki said.

In relation to the upcoming regional elections, AJI’s Yogyakarta branch called on journalists and mass media companies to maintain independence and play a controlling role to help create fair and just elections in the province.

AJI chairman Nezar Patria supported the chapter’s call in the Udin case, saying that AJI was the last bastion in the struggle for press freedom in the country “so let us continue the struggle”.