Soeharto vs. Time Case

Sep 12th, 2007, in IM Posts, by

Press freedom is threatened in the outcome of the Soeharto vs. Time libel case.

Case & Verdict

A three-judge panel of the Supreme Court, led by Army Major General German Hoediarto, along with M. Taufik and Bahauddin Qoudry, found on 31st August Time Asia Inc. guilty of tarnishing the good name of former president Suharto over a report in its May 1999 issue, and fined the magazine proprietors 1 trillion rupiah, or $106 million.

Major General German Hoediarto
Major General German Hoediarto, who is the head of the Supreme Court's military justice department.

In the offending Time report of 1999, titled "Soeharto Inc. How Indonesia's Longtime Boss Built a Family Fortune", it was argued that the Suharto family had over 30 odd years amassed a fortune of about $70 billion, which it stashed in various places and investments around the world. Time alleged that Soeharto and his children then, shortly before the leader's fall from power in 1998, transferred what was left of their fortune after the 1997-98 Asian economic crisis, about $15 billion, from Switzerland to Austria.

Suharto Inc
Suharto Inc.

In previous hearings of the libel/defamation case both the Central District Jakarta Court and later the Jakarta High Court, had each ruled in Time's favour, however the recent Supreme Court ruling, only announced on September 10th, overturns the verdicts of the earlier trials. hukumonline

Press Freedom

The Court decision has worried many in the media over the implications for press freedom in the country. Abdullah Alamudi of the Press Council, (Dewan Pers), said:

It's really disappointing and a big setback for press freedom.

Time's legal counsel, Todung Mulya Lubis (see also his views on capital punishment), said the justices had not paid any attention to the 1999 Press Act and complained:

It isn't Time that has lost, it's press freedom.

Todung Mulya Lubis
Todung Mulya Lubis.

Heru Hendratmoko and Eko Maryadi of the Independent Journalists' Alliance (Aliansi Jurnalis Independen, AJI), said in a press release:

This is a direct threat to freedom of the press from the bench.

Hendrayana of the Press Legal Aid Institute (Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Pers, LBH Pers) chimed in:

The decision is a toll bell for the death of freedom of the press.

Yuddy Speaketh

Not everyone was displeased with the verdict. Our friend from the Golkar Party, Yuddy Chrisnandi, said:

This is a country of law. We put our trust in the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court.

However he said not all cases like these should go to court, alternative mechanisms should be worked out, although he admitted he was not a legal expert. hukumonline


16 Comments on “Soeharto vs. Time Case”

  1. avatar Pena Budaya says:

    Yuddy Chrisnandi, said:
    This is a country of law. We put our trust in the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court.
    However he said not all cases like these should go to court, alternative mechanisms should be worked out, although he admitted he was not a legal expert.

    Indonesia is certainly a country of lawless corruption. Indonesian law is certainly having no respect towards the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled.

    We don’t need to become a legal expert to see the injustice verdict by the Supreme Court. It is too obvious to be ignored of. This is only one sample of many injustice that has occured.

    No wonder that SBY was placed in the back row of the final photo shoot during APEC summit. Indonesian government deserves this.

  2. avatar Sylvester says:

    Why this moron Yuddy guy always speak? He should be sent to the south pole to play with penguins.
    This case shows how strong the suharto still. It is a signal to the indo general attorney for suharto’s current case. I wonder do Time have to obey this verdict? Is indo govt stronger than Time?

  3. avatar Daniel Khaleel says:

    it was argued that the Suharto family had over 30 odd years amassed a fortune of about $70 billion

    To put this into perspective:

    Program to have 5 new worldclass educational tertiary institutes = approx $20 billion
    Program to resettle jakartan slum dwellers in permanent homes = $5 billion
    Access to world class hospital amenities for jakartans and surrounding area = approx $5 billion
    Investment in effort to eliminate human traficing from Indonesia = approx $5 billion
    Investment in vocational skills training for all unemployed Jakartans = approx $3 billion
    Infrastructure and development program for jakarta = approx $15 billion

    Important things out of the way, total $53 billion. Still have $17 billion left to start paying off foreign debts.

    How can this be tolerated? Why should the media be punished?

  4. avatar Colson says:

    Let’s rewrite history.

    The VOC was a charity organization.

    The occupation of the West Bank is legal.

    Suharto was an incorruptible president.

  5. avatar WP says:

    Well, publicly accussing someone to corrupt billions of people money is a huge defamation. You would need to come up with some solid facts to dare to say so.

    If Time coul produce that hard facts, then Soeharto would already in jail by now. It’s really not an easy case to crack. On the lack of supporting facts, any sane judge would verdict against Time.

    This has nothing to do with press freedom. Time generally produces good journalism, including in this Soeharto case. That someone sues back and wins is part of the risk, part of the job.

  6. avatar Bas says:

    “If Time coul produce that hard facts, then Soeharto would already in jail by now.”

    Lol.. Soeharto did worst. He murdered around 500.000 people with the help of the CIA. That is pure facts. The bodies are still here, the CIA archives are now opened and clearly reveal it. It’s not a secret anyway.

    Soeharto did it, and he is still free. So 70$ little billions.

  7. avatar Raden says:

    It is sick to hear this kind of news from Indonesia, the other side of coin, it could be a tactic from the hopeless law enforcement institution in Indonesia who might think that with Rp 1 trilion penalty to Time, it is enough to motivate Time magazine to work-out further finding the real facts.
    Let see what will the Time’s counter actions in the court …

  8. avatar Achmad Sudarsono says:

    This is a tough one.

    On one hand, there’s little doubt that Soeharto and his kids weren’t shy about “dipping their hands in the till,” or plundering state finances. And the timing of this verdict – just when Soeharto is facing a revival of charges against him – is very suspicious. Let’s face it, Soeharto Inc. probably bribed the Supreme Court.

    On the other hand, Time magazine just didn’t have its facts down. The original article – if anyone read it reads like a shopping list of baubles and trinkets, this house here, this painting there. Many of the valuations were very suspicious, and none of the four journalists who wrote the thing were accountants. According to Asia Sentinel, one of the lead writers, spent months afterwards substantiating the article to support their court case. You have to wonder why they didn’t do such research before publishing.

    So yes, Soeharto was probably corrupt. But what obligation does a “credible” media outlet have to get its facts right. I’d say to a very high degree, make it clear what they have – or don’t have – and shut up. Of course, you might not then make the same splash.

  9. avatar Enigmatic says:

    Yuddy Speaketh

    Not everyone was displeased with the verdict. Our friend from the Golkar Party, Yuddy Chrisnandi, said:

    This is a country of law. We put our trust in the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court.

    However he said not all cases like these should go to court, alternative mechanisms should be worked out, although he admitted he was not a legal expert.

    He hath made a good point.

    Alternative methods art good at solving such cases. They include bribery coercion and thuggery.

    Yuddyboy should just shut up if he aint a legal expert.

  10. avatar Achmad Sudarsono says:

    None of you want to hear The Truth. You just want it packaged in ways easily swalled, digested, and ultimately passed into Crap.

  11. avatar dewaratugedeanom says:

    Is the Supreme court paving the way for Soeharto’s come-back?

  12. avatar Ihaknt says:

    Nice bling I reckon.

  13. avatar Oigal says:

    “Well, publicly accussing someone to corrupt billions of people money is a huge defamation. You would need to come up with some solid facts to dare to say so.

    If Time coul produce that hard facts, then Soeharto would already in jail by now. It’s really not an easy case to crack. On the lack of supporting facts, any sane judge would verdict against Time.”

    Laugh… thanks.. best laugh for long time. Hey but don’t feel sorry for Indonesia guys..everyone will just shrug their shoulders and things will continue on as they always have. No one gives a crap as long as “I’m ok Jack” …

  14. avatar Andra Wisnu says:

    I wonder, is there a court transcript available for this case? Or was it a closed hearing? Seeing this Indonesian Supreme Court vindicate a press organization doesn’t make sense to me. This is the same Supreme Court which had acquitted a Tempo editor from defamation charges, citing that anyone who wants to file suit against any publication should refer to the 1999 press law first.
    That press law states that anyone who was been defamed has a legal right to answer the article. Soeharto and his lackeys simply didn’t use it, they went straight to court.
    And now the court is saying you don’t have to refer to the press law first?
    Make up your mind Bagir!

  15. avatar Adit says:

    Seems black is no longer black, so is white.
    Depends on who defines it, how it should be seen.
    This case definitely shows how a very complicated matter has been presented to the public after a long process with an easy ending. Unfortunately, in this presentation no room is left for those who are not expert in law. Need more years to really understand what should be really understood. Probably…

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