Indonesian editor ‘amazed’ over blasphemy accusation after publishing critical Isis cartoon

The editor claims that the allegation falls under jurisdiction of journalism ethics

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The Independent Online

A newspaper editor in Indonesia - one of the most populous Muslim countries - has been named as a suspect of blasphemy after a cartoon was printed showing a flag similar to that of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Editor-in-Chief Meidyatama Suryodiningrat of English-language newspaper The Jakarta Post has been summoned for questioning next week as a suspect in the case after the Jakarta Muballigh (Preachers) Corps filed a complaint.

The cartoon published on 3 July showed a flag used by Isis replaced with a skull and crossbones with militants and hostages in the background. The sacred phrase “there is no other God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger” written in Arabic was kept in the style found on the flag used by Isis but the illustrator placed it inside the skull, rather than a plain circle.

The newspaper issued a front-page apology and withdrew the cartoon five days later claiming that it was trying to “critique the use of religious symbols” and “reproach” the Islamic State.

 

Suryodiningrat allegedly could be jailed for up to five years if found guilty under the law named “Undang-Undang Penodaan Agama”, however he claims that the case would not carry a criminal penalty as he believes it falls under journalistic ethics.

He said in a statement yesterday: “We are amazed because the fact is we did not commit a criminal act as accused. What we produced was a journalistic piece that criticised the Isis [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] movement, which has carried out violence in the name of religion.

“It means that the Isis caricature was not blasphemous. We all know that Isis is an organisation that is banned in Indonesia and across almost the entire world.”

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A member of Ussud Al-Anbar, a group that is affiliated to Isis, holding up the black and white flag

“This should fall within the jurisdiction of the Press Council,” he added.

“However, we respect the ongoing process and we will follow it in accordance with the prevailing regulations.”

Human rights group Amnesty International last month called on new President Joko Widodo to abolish the blasphemy laws, saying that cases of people being jailed for infringing the regulations had “skyrocketed” since 1998 reforms under his predecessor President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The charity states that 106 people have been prosecuted as prisoners of conscience under the blasphemy laws since 2005. Only 10 were convicted of blasphemy during the years between 1966 and 1998.

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