Chief editor of The Jakarta Post named a suspect in blasphemy case

JAKARTA - Indonesian police have named the editor-in-chief of The Jakarta Post a suspect in a blasphemy case on the publication of a caricature purporting to criticise violence inflicted in Iraq by militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Jakarta police spokesman Rikwanto told reporters that Mr Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, 47, was named a suspect, citing witness testimonies and evidence, for his responsibility over all products of the English-language daily newspaper.

The caricature published on July 3 depicted a flag emblazoned with the Arabic phrases "La ilaha Illallah", meaning "there is none worthy of worship except Allah", and "Allah, Mohamed and Apostle" on a pirate skull.

The newspaper, however, issued an apology five days later, saying the cartoon contained religious symbolism that may have been offensive. It retracted the cartoon from its website and print edition.

Mr Meidyatama, in a statement issued on Thursday evening, said the newspaper did not commit a criminal act.

"We have received information on the matter and currently we are still studying it," the newspaper quoted him as saying in the statement.

"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 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."

Mr Meidyatama said The Jakarta Post had received a statement from the Press Council that declared the case was merely related to journalism's code of ethics and so was not a criminal matter.

"This should fall within the jurisdiction of the Press Council," he stated.

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

The Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent Journalists, or AIJ, also slammed the naming of Mr Meidyatama as suspect, according to Kyodo news agency.

"We urge the police not to use the Criminal Code to deal with journalistic cases, but the Press Law to solve disputes related to news reports and press products," the press organisation said.

Kyodo said the Indonesian police were alerted to the case by a Muslim group called Jakarta Preachers' Corps. The police will summon and question Mr Meidyatama next week as a suspect and he faces five years in prison for blasphemy against a religion under the Criminal Code.