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KompasTV High-Speed Rail Debt Coverage Legal Row Hints at Intimidation: Press Council

11 May 2023 13:30 WIB

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Press company KompasTV found itself being the subject of an Rp1.3 billion lawsuit filed by a Youtuber over a news coverage related to the debt surrounding the Indonesia - China High-Speed Rail (KCIC) project. 

KompasTV editor-in-chief Rosianna Silalahi explained that the lawsuit was based on news material about PT KCIC's debt – which had increased to Rp 8.5 trillion – and was uploaded on the KompasTV and Kompas.com YouTube accounts. Visual references were cited from KCIC's official YouTube account in some of the footage used in the news package. 

“What’s strange is that we had used the same visuals in a news package regarding the high-speed railway trial session in between the G20 event in November last year, and that did not cause any issue,” said the editor-in-chief in a written statement on May 11. 

According to Rosi, all efforts to resolve this issue have commenced since mid-April, including establishing communication with PT KCIC and YouTube.  

"The Youtuber through their lawyer asked us to pay Rp 200 million per video, which in total is around Rp 1.3 billion, and that PT KCIC is made aware of this," she said. 

As this news was published, the legal issue between KompasTV and Kompas.com editorial staff and the Youtuber had been resolved.

Press Freedom On the Line 

However, Rosi insisted that this issue must be a focal issue in terms of maintaining freedom of the press. She said the Youtuber who filed a lawsuit against her company is one of 25 content creators that are reportedly taken under PT KCIC’s wing.

"We see a new potential threat to the freedom of the press by using global platforms, in this case, YouTube. We think this must be a common concern in order to maintain press freedom in the digital era. Today it happened to the KompasTV editorial team but it is not impossible that it can happen to other newsrooms," said Rosi. 

The editorial team of KompasTV has held hearings with a number of press stakeholders in Indonesia, starting with the Forum of Editors in Chief, the Indonesian Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), and the Press Council. 

Rosi said that the initiative to meet and discuss what KompasTV experienced is a form of moral responsibility for the editorial team to maintain journalistic quality in Indonesia as a whole.

The case involving legal actions against critical news coverage was lamented by Press Council chairperson Ninik Rahayu. “The Press Council's regulations state that if there is a conflict in reporting distributed on social media, it is covered under the mediation process and the resolution will be handled by the Press Council," said Ninik.

Ninik said that the case experienced by KompasTV was a form of intimidation against the media.

Echoing Ninik’s view, Editor in Chief Forum chairperson Arifin Asydhad called for the case to take attention and that there will be a need for press freedom stakeholders to prevent similar cases from reoccurring. 

Chairman of AJI Indonesia Sasmito Madrim believes that there is certainly a threat to press freedom in the case experienced by KompasTV regarding the coverage of PT KCIC.

ADE RIDWAN YANDWIPUTRA

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