Indonesia: RSF calls for thorough investigation into journalist’s suspicious death in a house fire

RSF is urging Indonesian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into a recent house fire that claimed the lives of a journalist and his family, amid serious suspicions that the disaster may be a criminal act in retribution for his investigations into an illegal gambling network.

A coalition of Indonesian press freedom organisations released a report on 2 July 2024 suggesting that the death of Sempurna Pasaribu, a journalist for Tribrata TV who perished in a house fire, was a criminal act. According to a witness, five unidentified individuals were seen approaching the journalist's home, located in the city of Kabanjahe, in western Indonesia, thirty minutes before the blaze on the night of 27 June. Sempurna's wife, son, and grandson also perished in the fire.

In the days leading up to the tragedy, the 47-year-old journalist received threats from officials reacting to his articles on the TV channel’s website about an illegal gambling den owned by a local army officer, as well as his coverage of local campaigns that opposed drug use, illegal gambling, and prostitution. Army and police officers also contacted the editor-in-chief of Tribrata TV, urging the removal of the articles, but their requests were left unanswered.

"The initial findings of the investigation suggest that Sempurna Pasaribu and his family may have been victims of an assassination due to the journalist’s investigations on illegal gambling activities. We urge the Indonesian authorities to conduct a thorough judicial investigation to determine the causes and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.

Cédric Alviani
Director of RSF’s Asia-Pacific Bureau

In Indonesia, journalists investigating abuses committed by local authorities often face intimidation and even imprisonment. In November 2021, journalist Muhammad Asrul was abusively sentenced to three months in prison for publishing a report on the embezzlement of public funds by a local administration.

Indonesia ranked 111th out of 180 in the 2024 RSF World Press Freedom Index, guarantees freedom of the press in principle in its legislation.

111/ 180
Score : 51.15
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