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Indonesia democrats cry foul over bad press

Publication Date : 08-12-2013


The Democratic Party (PD) has lashed out at the media for the constant bombardment of bad press about the ruling party ahead of the 2014 general election.

With pollsters saying its electability had taken a nosedive from 20 percent in January 2011 to below 10 percent in October, the party claimed that it had been the victim of “unbalanced coverage”.

The ailing party has filled the front pages of local newspapers over the past few weeks after being linked to at least four major corruption cases: the Bank Century scandal, the Hambalang sports complex scandal, the beef importation scandal and the Upstream Oil and Gas Regulatory Special Task Force (SKKMigas) scandal.

The leader of the party’s faction at the House of Representatives, Nurhayati Ali Assegaf, said on Friday that she was upset because her party was being cornered by the media.

She said the media continued to link the party and its leader, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to corruption cases. “There’s no relation between Hambalang , Century and SKKMigas to the President. Don’t fool the public anymore (by) linking them to Cikeas. Just provide balanced coverage,” she told a press conference at the House of Representatives complex in Senayan. Cikeas refers to Yudhoyono’s family estate in Bogor, West Java.

Nurhayati said that only certain media outlets were guilty of biased coverage, but declined to name them.

She reminded the press of the importance of abiding by the journalistic code of ethics by reading every article of the code regarding unbalanced media coverage.

“The Democratic Party has actually been endorsing the freedom of the press and the antigraft fight,” she said.

Some people believed to be close to the First Family have been mentioned in several graft trials. A witness in the Hambalang trial, Mindo Rosalina Manulang, said on Tuesday that a woman she identified as “the head of the Cikeas household” played a role in the graft case.

The woman, called Ibu Pur, is believed to be Sylvia Sholehah, a close friend of First Lady Ani Yudhoyono. The State Palace admitted that the woman was an acquaintance of the First Family but has never been part of the President’s inner circle. It also said that there is no such position as “the head of the Cikeas household”.

Previously, a woman called Bunda Putri, who is believed to be close to the President, allegedly played a role in the beef import graft case.

Yudhoyono claimed that he did not know the woman, who was later identified as Non Saputri, the wife of a top official at the Agriculture Ministry.

The party came under public scrutiny again recently after graft suspect and former SKKMigas chief Rudi Rubiandini claimed that he had been pressured to pay an Idul Fitri bonus worth US$200,000 to lawmakers through Tri Yulianto, a PD lawmaker. Tri was reportedly instructed by fellow Democrat Sutan Bhatoegana to take the money.

Tri failed to answer the KPK summons on Wednesday as he had to go undergo surgery to remove a tumor on his testicle.

Due to his medical situation, the KPK investigators were forced to question Tri inside the room where he was being treated at the Premier Hospital in Jatinegara, East Jakarta on Friday. “The questioning was conducted from 10 am to 4 pm.,” KPK spokesperson Johan Budi said.

Besides Tri, the KPK also questioned several other PD lawmakers on Friday, including Mirwan Amir. Mirwan was questioned about the money laundering charges leveled against former PD treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin.

Commenting on the issue, Herlina Agustin, a lecturer at Padjadjaran University in Bandung, suggested that the PD politicians should seek clarification from the media outlets.

“If they feel that that a media outlet has made slanderous statements, the politicians should communicate this with the media outlet, with the help of the Press Council to act as a mediator,” she said over the phone.

Ignatius Haryanto from the Institute for Press Development Studies, said it was only natural for the party to be under the spotlight since it was the current ruling party.

“There seems to be a lot of Democratic Party members connected to several corruption cases,” he said. “The question now is why are there many Democratic Party politicians becoming entangled (in graft cases)? They should ask that themselves (before blaming it on the media).”



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