Two men in black threw petrol bombs at the head office of "Tempo" magazine in Jakarta earlier this month. No one was hurt and no significant damage was done to the building.
Through its investigative journalism about corruption involving politicians, businessmen and the police, "Tempo" magazine has made many powerful enemies in the past. The June edition of the magazine featured a cover story with the title "The fat bank accounts of police officers". The cover depicts a policeman leading three pig-shaped money boxes on leashes.
"We are not sure, but obviously either it is people who are unhappy with our investigations into alleged illegal payments to high ranking officers in the police force or people who want to stir trouble," Bambang Harymurti, the CEO and Chief Editor of "Tempo", told Deutsche Welle about who might be behind the attack. "It's probably not from the police as an institution but rather from some police officers who are not very happy with our report. I think they want to send a message not to mess with us or continue this kind of reporting. This is an initial attempt to try to clamp down on press freedom."
Two days after the attack on the magazine, an Indonesian anti-graft activist was also attacked. Tama Langkun from Indonesia Corruption Watch was hit on the head as he rode back home on a motorcycle, apparently for speaking out against police corruption.
These kinds of attacks remind Indonesians of the autocratic Suharto regime and raise questions about the strength of the country's democracy. Bambang Harymurti described the consequences: "I'm sure it has an effect on our work. At Tempo, we make sure it will strengthen our resolve to fight corruption, but I'm sure it has an effect on people. It creates an environment of fear."
Rampant police corruption
Corruption is known to be worst amongst the police and the judiciary in Indonesia. According to Transparency International Indonesia, police have now topped the corruption list for the third time in a row. More than half of all interactions with police are estimated to involve the payment of bribes.
As Bambang Harymurti from "Tempo" magazine explained, "recently because of the reform process, the military in Indonesia have lost power and the police have gained a lot of power. In Indonesia the problem is that our entire corruption agency has to rely on the police. Therefore it is difficult for the corruption agency to investigate the police. Another reason that the police are corrupt is that they do not have enough money for their operations and police officers only have a meagre salary."
Adnan Topan Husodo, Vice- Coordinator of Indonesian Corruption Watch, added, "we know that in some areas, the government has introduced some progressive reforms within the police force as an institution. But we know that the reform is not good enough. There are still problems in the way the police function."
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has asked the police to investigate the latest attacks. But in view of the nature of the problem it appears highly unlikely that this approach will lead to the culprits being caught.
Author: Jaisu Bhullar
Editor: Grahame Lucas