Thursday, November 20, 2008

Aburizal to sue ‘Tempo’ for defamation

Rather than make use of the press law to settle a dispute with Tempo magazine, chief welfare minister Aburizal Bakrie has chosen to file criminal charges against the magazine for allegedly defaming him.

Aburizal, an influential politician and one of the country’s wealthiest people, accused the investigative magazine of “character assassination” by defaming him in a report on the plight of the Bakrie Group’s plummeting shares, published in its Nov. 17-23 edition.

The report described the coordinating minister for the people’s welfare as one of the biggest sponsors of the 2004 presidential campaign of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono-Jusuf Kalla.

Another offending item was the magazine’s cover, which had the number 666 prominently marked out on the minister’s portrait. The number is considered a negative symbol among certain groups.

“Pak Aburizal insisted on filing a lawsuit against Tempo. Hopefully the report will be filed on Monday next week with the Jakarta Police,” Aburizal’s spokesman Lalu Mara Satriawangsa told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

The report, which quoted unnamed sources, claimed Aburizal’s huge contributions to the Yudhoyono-Kalla campaign earned him the post of coordinating minister for the economy.

Aburizal was retained in the Cabinet as coordinating minister for the people’s welfare, despite Yudhoyono’s dismissal of several other ministers for their poor performances, it added.

“Probably because of this (funding), Aburizal was only moved from the post of coordinating minister for the economy to that of coordinating minister for the people’s welfare,” the report, “Who cares about Bakrie”, read.

Mara said the report was very unbalanced and breached the press law by spreading “slanderous news” about Aburizal.

He said the minister refused to use options in the press law to settle the case — including having a rebuttal published in Tempo or reporting the case to the Press Council — because the magazine had clashed with Bakrie Group many times in the past.

“It is unbalanced because so many lines are dedicated to making accusations against Pak Aburizal, and only one paragraph for him. Tempo could have requested an interview. It is necessary to report it to police to teach them a lesson,” Mara said.

Tempo chief editor Toriq Hadad dismissed Aburizal’s claims, saying his magazine had followed all journalistic standards in publishing the report.

“What we reported were the facts. We never meant to expose the negative aspects of anyone, including Pak Aburizal. This is just a regular disagreement between the media and a newsmaker. So we should use the press law and the Press Council to settle the case,” he told the Post.

Toriq said a Tempo reporter had submitted a request for an interview with Aburizal, but had received no reply in time for the press deadline.

University of Indonesia legal expert Rudy Satrio said any dispute over press reports should be solved using the press law rather than the Criminal Code.

“(Aburizal) can file a report with the police if he has a legal basis for that,” he said. “But any good police officer will use the press law as the basis for handling this case.”

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