12/12/2014, 00.00
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Satirical cartoon on Islamic State, the director of the Jakarta Post investigated for blasphemy

by Mathias Hariyadi
Meidyatama Suryodiningrat is at the center of an investigation and will be heard next week. The cartoon, published in Indonesia last July, allegedly offends the religious sensibility of Muslims. The journalist criticized by extremist movements and moderate Muslim groups.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The editor of the Jakarta Post, one of the most important newspapers of Indonesia (the world's most populous Muslim nation) is likely to end up in the dock on charges of blasphemy. Meidyatama Suryodiningrat is at the center of an investigation and, if found guilty, could be sentenced up to five years in prison. The judiciary has opened an investigation against him following the publication, last July, of a satirical cartoon on the terrorist Islamic State (IS) movement, which is deemed "offensive to Islam". A complaint was lodged with police officers in Jakarta this morning by the Muslim Preachers Corps, which is based in the capital.

The cartoon, which appeared on page 7 of the issue on 3 July 2014, shows a man - belonging to the Islamist militias - waving a flag depicting the image of a skull and an inscription in Arabic, sacred to Muslims: "There is no god but Allah. "In the background there are other members of the terrorist group.

In the aftermath of the publication protests by more or less extremist pro-Islamic movements flared: from the fundamentalist Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid group, which boasts the terrorist Abu Bakar Baasyir, who is now in jail, amongst its front line members, to the moderate Muslim movement Muhammadiyah, which condemned the cartoon considering it offensive. Its leader, Saleh Partaonan Daulay, explains that the cartoon "strikes at the heart of the Muslim faith" because it recalls the phrase in which Muslims express their total submission to God.

In the following days the newspaper issued an official statement of "sincere apology" which was published on the front page. "The Post - the statement reads - regrets its error of assessment, but had no intention of offending religious sentiment." The purpose of the cartoon, the paper added, was "to criticize the use of religious symbols (in particular the IS flag) for acts of violence", especially when they strike "other Muslims."

The Director will be heard next week in the course of a preliminary injunction; in a statement the newspaper has expressed its "astonishment" for the decision. The Order of Indonesian Journalists has also intervened in the matter calling on the police not to implement Criminal Law in the matter. "It should be evaluated - the Order points out - as a case of violation of the Code of Practice for the press."

Meanwhile, human rights organizations and activists have launched an appeal to the President of Indonesia,  Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, calling for the abolition of the blasphemy laws and noting that during the mandate of his predecessor, Yudhoyono, cases "have skyrocketed."


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