Clashes between so-called hardline nationalists and minority groups are happening more frequently in Yogyakarta, which boasts itself as a 'City of Tolerance.' (Antara Photo/Andreas Fitri Atmoko)

Police Break Up World Press Freedom Day Party in Yogyakarta, Cancel Movie Screening


MAY 04, 2016

Jakarta. Police broke up a house party celebrating World Press Freedom Day at the Alliance of Independent Journalists, or AJI, office in Yogyakarta on Tuesday afternoon (03/05). The party was going to be followed by a screening of a documentary film on exiled communist writers.

According to an AJI press release, the incident started at around 5.10 p.m. when seven police officers led by Yogyakarta City Police’s intelligent and security chief Comm. Wahyu Dwi Nugroho visited the AJI office and demanded to see a permit for the event.

Since the party was only going to take place inside AJI's office, their representatives pointed out the event did not require any permit, and that an invitation had been delivered to the Yogyakarta Police earlier.

After a lengthy negotiation, the police requested the event organizer to cancel the screening of the documentary film "Pulau Buru Tanah Air Beta" (Buru Island, My Home), which was included in the rundown for the party. AJI rejected the police's request, arguing canceling the screening would go against the spirit of press freedom that they were celebrating.

For the record, Pulau Buru Tanah Air Beta is a documentary film directed by Rahung Nasution which tells the harrowing story of two ex-political prisoners who were banished without trial to Buru Island for being members of the Institute for People’s Culture, or Lekra, an organization affiliated with the Indonesian Communist Party, or PKI, from 1969 to 1978.

Police said the film screening would trigger angry reaction from other organizations in the city.

AJI Yogyakarta chairman Anang Zakaria managed to start the event at 6.50 p.m. even though the police kept trying to persuade the organizers to cancel it.

Tension escalated at around 7.30 p.m. when Yogyakarta City Police Comm. Sigit Haryadi arrived at the scene and forcefully entered the AJI compound looking for Anang. “The Yogyakarta Police chief has given me order to stop this event,” Sigit shouted.

More threats came as members of the so-called Children of Military and Police Veterans Forum arrived at the AJI office and started yelling slogans to disperse the crowd. Among these protesters was Burhanudin, founder of the Indonesia Anti-Communist Front, or FAK, who shouted, “Stop communist propaganda!”

Minutes later, a truck carrying a number of police officers arrived at the scene.

Comm. Sigit Haryadi demanded the crowd should leave AJI's office immediately. “If you love Yogyakarta, please stop the event. I don’t want people to fight. Let's show people that Yogyakarta is indeed a City of Tolerance [one of the city's marketing campaigns],” he told the crowd.

Anang then demanded that the police issue an official letter to disperse the event, but the police refused to do so.

Indonesian Press Council commissioner Nezar Patria phoned Sigit to ask him to allow the event to continue but the police insisted the crowd had to go.

AJI eventually decided to call an end to the party at around 8.30 p.m. “We have fought against fear. This is not a defeat. Fear will only perpetuate your enslavement,” said the AJI Yogyakarta chairman, quoting a line from the famous disappeared poet Wiji Thukul as he closed the event.