Police rule out foul play in journalist deaths

Police rule out foul play in journalist deaths
The Jakarta Post, 22 September 2010

Investigations into the recent deaths of two journalists in separate locations have revealed no signs of foul play as many had alleged previously.

In Papua, Merauke Police chief Djoko Prihadi announced that Merauke TV journalist Ardiansyah Matrais, 31, whose body was found floating in a river near a charcoal warehouse on July 31, had committed suicide.

“The Makassar forensic laboratory test showed this. We found liquid in the victim’s lungs, suggesting that he drowned,” Djoko said.

He added that Ardiansyah had died by throwing himself into the river. Testimonies from several witnesses supported the analysis, he said, although no one had seen Ardiansyah jump into the river directly. Police also found no trace of violence on the victim’s body.

Ardiansyah was reported to have suffered stress and depression because of personal problems.

Earlier reports alleged he had been murdered since he had received threats sent to his cell phone prior to his death. The threats were linked to his coverage of local elections.

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) has stated it accepts the police account of the death, but said it would continue with its own investigations.

“We have not conducted our own investigations yet. If we find different results we will present them to the police for a follow-up,” AJI Jayapura office secretary Cunding Levi said.

In Palembang, police arrested Stefi, 20, who allegedly murdered Sriwijaya Pos journalist Arsep Pajario, 41, but no indications of a political motive have been found in the case as previously alleged by the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM).

South Sumatra Police public relations chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Sabaruddin Ginting said the suspect, whom the victim had known for only a month, had strangled Arsep to death.

“Stefi is named as suspect because all evidence and witnesses strongly lead to this one person,” Ginting told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Since the body of Arsep was found on Friday, South Sumatra Police chief Insp. Gen. Hasyim Irianto had set up a special joint team comprising personnel from Palembang and South Sumatra Police to investigate the case, he said.

The result of an autopsy confirmed that the victim died because of lack of oxygen. It also revealed signs of strangulation.

An intensive questioning of the suspect on Monday further confirmed the cause of death. The suspect also admitted to have taken the victim’s cell phone after killing him.

“The suspect deliberately put a can of insecticide near the victim’s left hand make it look like he killed himself,” Ginting said.

Stefi was taken to the site where Arsep had been found dead to reconstruct the crime.

Stefi admitted to have killed Arsep because “he felt frustrated at being forced to do whatever the victim told him to do”. Stefi said he “could not bear the victim’s bad words any longer.”

“You have help here, enjoying good food, receiving phone credit. Why can’t you just do what I tell you to?” Ginting said quoting Stefi’s statement of abuse Arsep had allegedly yelled at him.

Stefi, Ginting said, had strangled Arsep from behind.

Lengthy questioning sessions at the police headquarters on Monday had led suspect to be so depressed and down that he yelled Arsep’s name repeatedly, Ginting said.