Police Probe Attack on Journalist

The National Police on Thursday said the stabbing of a journalist in Papua early that day did not appear to be linked to his recent work to expose sex abuse at a local police detention center.

Banjir Ambarita, a freelance reporter and contributor to the Jakarta Globe, was attacked in Jayapura by two men on a motorcycle as he was riding his own motorcycle home shortly after midnight. He was stabbed twice, in the chest near his shoulder and in the stomach.

The attackers fled and Banjir managed to get to a nearby police station where officers rushed him to Marthen Indey Army Hospital in the city’s Aryoko district.

“I have ordered the local police to collect more evidence and witnesses to solve this case, which so far has no indication of being related to any story he had written,” said Comr. Gen. Ito Sumardi, National Police chief of detectives.

In one of his latest stories, Banjir had reported on a female detainee who had been forced to perform oral sex on three officers at the detention center. The Jayapura Police chief has resigned due to his “moral responsibility” over his subordinates’ conduct.

Ito said the National Police were coordinating with the Papua Police and have yet to decide whether to send officers to Jayapura. “If they need us, then we will go there,” he said.

Viktor Mambor, head of the Papua chapter of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), said Banjir was now recovering in intensive care after surgery.

“He regained consciousness for a while and asked for water,” he said. “He will have to fast for at least the next five days since he cannot eat because of the damage done to his intestine.”

Local police had been quick to set up a team to probe the attack, with at least two witnesses already questioned, Viktor said.

The AJI has called for a full investigation into the attack, saying that it was an attempt to intimidate the media. Its call was echoed by the Legal Aid Foundation for the Press (LBH Pers).

“Unless the police take swift action, the perpetrators could get away and destroy the evidence,”  AJI chairman Nezar Patria said.

Margiyono, an advocacy coordinator for the AJI, said the police had been slow in investigating attacks on reporters and many cases had gone unsolved. “This just shows how impunity is extended toward those who obstruct journalists’ work,” he said.

In its 2010 year-end review, the AJI said cases of violence against journalists rose to 46 from 37 in 2009, ranging from murder to assault, ransacking of offices, confiscation of journalists’ working tools and threats.

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