Indonesian Journalists Safety Committee, represented by the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Medan in North Sumatra, had finished verifying facts surrounding the killings of Maratua P. Siregar or Sanjai, 42, and Maraden Sianipar, 55, who were reportedly journalists who were killed by oil palm plantation company.

The committee interviewed a number of sources who knew the two victims in in Labuhanbatu, around 11 hours by car from Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra.

Maratua and Maraden were found dead in the area of oil palm plantation of multibusiness cooperative (KSU) Amelia in Dusun VI, Sei Siali, Wonosari village, Panai Hilir District, Labuhanbatu with stab wounds on their heads, bodies, arms, backs, chests, and abdominal.
 
The body of Maraden was found on Wednesday, October 30 around 4 p.m. local time, while his partner Maratua was discovered on Thursday, October 31 at 10.30 a.m. local time.

Based on the news published by several media outlets, it was said that the two were journalists from a local newspaper, Pindo Merdeka, in Labuhanbatu Raya. To follow up the report, AJI Medan immediately formed a team to probe the information. 

Here are the results of the investigation:
 
1. The team conducted interviews with press organizations that made statement in response to the incident. None of them, however, were colleagues of the victims and able to provide any information regarding the media Maratua and Maraden worked for.
 
2. The team also interviewed reporters and editors in several media companies who, through their reports, mentioned that Maratua and Maraden were journalists. Again, they failed to prove that the victims were in fact worked as journalists for Pindo Merdeka.
 
3. The team met Pindo Merdeka chief editor Paruhuman Daulay. According to Parahuman, Maratua was in fact part of Pindo Merdeka editorial in 2016 and only lasted one year. As of the incident took place, he was no longer journalist for Pindo Merdeka. Paruhuman went on and said he recognized Maraden as Maratua’s friend. He did not know much about Maraden. He only knew that Maraden was an activist who was once listed as a legislative candidate but lost.
 
4. The team gathered information from Johan, Maratua’s former colleague in Pindo Merdeka. Johan said that Maratua actively formed groups for farmers that utilise the plantation products. After leaving Pindo Merdeka, Maratua reportedly became more focus in advocating people to earn their rights for ex-palm plantation land.
Maratua reportedly asked Johan to establish farmers group that would work on the land of ex-palm plantation. He called on the farmers to replace the palm trees with different crops, such as durian and other fruit plants which would bring more benefits for them. Maratua worked together with Maraden because Maraden reportedly had connections with the local forestry agency. Maratua was a part of the campaign team for Maraden in the Labuhanbatu’s legislative election 2019. In his campaign, Maraden promised that he would fight for the land of ex-palm plantation for the local farmers and residents.
 
5. There was a statement made by Arsyad Rangkuti, the chairman of Nasdem Party in Labuhanbatu. He said Maraden was registered as a legislative candidate in the latest election. When Maraden listed his name to the party, he claimed himself as an entrepreneur. Arsyad said Maraden lived in Rantauprapat and owned the palm plantation.
 
6. The North Sumatra Police revealed on November 8 have arrested five out of eight suspects behind the murder of Maratua and Maraden. 

The first three suspects were arrested on November 5. The Labuhanbatu Police Reskrim and Panai Hilir Sub-District Police Reksrim Panai Hilir caught Victor Simatupang or Revi, 49, in his house at 1 a.m., Sabar Hutape or known as Tati, 50, and Daniel Sianturi or Niel, 40.
 
On November 6, the police arrested Janti Katimin Hutahaean in a rooming house in Jamin Ginting, Kabanjahe. The fifth suspect Wibharry Padmoasmolo or Harry (40 years old) was caught on November 7 at 2 p.m. in the CBD residence in Medan Polonia District.
 
The police are still on the hunt for three other suspects namely Joshua Situmorang, 20, Riki Pranata or Riki, 20, and Hendrik Simorangkir, 38.
 
North Sumatra Police Chief Insp. Gen. Agus Andrianto said the killings allegedly were caused by land dispute between the company managed by Wibharry Padmoasmolo and local farmers.

7. There was also a statement made by Maratua’s wife. She said her husband worked as a farmer in the land inherited from his family in Sei Berombang, Panai Hilir, Labuhanbatu. She went on and said she did not know her husband’s journalism career; she neither had read any news published under her husband’s byline nor seen her husband write stories for the paper. About a month ago, she saw her husband handing out newspapers.
 
Maratua was hired by Maraden during the legislative election to work with his campaign team. She remembered Maraden stayed in their house during the campaign periode. She knew Maraden as a businessman who lived in Rantauprapat and owned a palm plantation.
 
A week before the murders, Maratua and his wife moved to Bagan Siapiapi, Riau. Maratua wanted to quit from his job as Maraden’s assistant due to an intense conflict with the company KSU Amelia which also claimed that they owned the palm plantation and might put his life in danger.
 
She said her husband worked with Maraden since the two have known each other since the local election campaign. Maratua was asked to collect the money from farmers in the area of palm plantation which claimed to be Maraden’s.
 
Based on the findings from the investigation team, the committee concluded as follows:
 
1. We find that both Maratua and Maraden were not journalists. Therefore, the murders should not be included on the list of killings against journalists.
 
2. Indonesian Journalists Safety Committee calls on the authorities to investigate the case and bring the perpetrators to justice, also to arrest the three suspects who are still on the run.
 
 
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For further information, please contact:
Liston Damanik - Chairman of AJI Medan.
Phone: +62 813 9671 2184
Sasmito Madrim - Indonesian Journalists Safety Committee
Phone: +62 857-7970-8669
Muhammad Isnur - Indonesian Journalists Safety Committee
Phone: +62 815-1001-4395
 
 
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Indonesian Journalists Safety Committee established in Jakarta, on April 5, 2019. The committee consists of 10 different press organisations and civil society organisations, namely the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia, the Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers),
Association of Indonesian Television Journalists (IJTI),  the Indonesian Media Workers Federation (FSPMI), Amnesty International Indonesia, a trade union for media and creative workers (Sindikasi), the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), the Indonesian Cyber Media Association (AMSI), the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), and the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI). The committee aims to advocate the cases of violence against journalists in Indonesia.