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Saturday March 02, 2024

Indonesia presidential frontrunner skips press freedom event

Event came just days ahead of the Feb 14 poll, and some Indonesians raise concerns over an erosion of country’s hard-won democratic freedoms

By REUTERS
February 12, 2024
Defense Minister of Indonesia Prabowo Subianto can be seen in this image. — AFP/File
Defense Minister of Indonesia Prabowo Subianto can be seen in this image. — AFP/File

JAKARTA: Two of Indonesia’s three presidential contenders pledged to protect press freedom in the world’s third-largest democracy at a weekend event that frontrunner Prabowo Subianto didn’t attend.

The event came just days ahead of the Feb 14 poll, and as some Indonesians raise concerns over an erosion of the country’s hard-won democratic freedoms. Criticism over political interference has been levelled especially at outgoing President Joko Widodo, who has given tacit support to Prabowo.

In the past, incumbents wrapping up their second term as president have remained neutral. On the last day of campaigning, ex-Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan and ex-Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo signed the National Press Council’s written declarations to uphold democracy and press freedom.

It was unclear if Prabowo, represented at the Saturday event by the head of his campaign team, signed the declaration. His campaign did not respond to queries on the matter. Prabowo is projected by some opinion surveys to pip the 50 percent threshold needed to win the election in a single round. The former special forces commander, who is making his third run at the presidency, has long faced allegations of rights abuses during his time in the military. He denies the accusations, but critics have questioned Prabowo’s commitment to protecting human rights.