JAKARTA – Human rights organizations said Monday that the killing of two journalists in Indonesia has shown the risks faced by those investigating land grabbing and the environmental impacts of palm oil among other agricultural industries in the country.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International spoke after the death of Martua Parasian Siregar and Maraden Sianipar, independent journalists known for their activism against land theft by agricultural companies. They condemned the incident and the violence to which activists, journalists and researchers are exposed in the archipelago.
“People who speak out about [the] negative implications of palm oil industries as well as human rights violations in the palm oil plantations will be targeted by those with powerful interests,” Usman Hamid, Amnesty International Indonesia’s director, told EFE.
Their bodies were found Oct. 30 in two separate ditches near a palm oil plantation owned by the Amelia palm oil company in the North Sumatra province and presented multiple stab wounds.
“Many plantation owners have their own private securities, employing military or police officers, and some are bold enough to order the use of force,” Andreas Harsono, HRW investigator in Indonesia, told EFE.
Police arrested on Sunday Wibharry Padmoasmolo, head of Amelia, for allegedly ordering the killings – who supported several farmers involved in a land dispute with the company – and paying several people about $3,000 to carry them out.
Four have been arrested for the alleged murders and search and arrest warrants have been issued for three others, Tatan Dirsan Atmaja of the North Sumatra Police told EFE.
The killings come after the suspicious death of lawyer Golfrid Siregar, who represented Walhi, Indonesia’s largest environmental group.
His death was declared a traffic accident, but many activists were skeptical about the claim and have called for an independent investigation.
This year, 42 cases of violence against journalists and environmental activists have been reported in Indonesia so far, mostly by private companies and state organizations, according to the Independent Journalists Alliance in Indonesia.