Subject: The Progressive: Allan Nairn, Standing Up to Repressive Forces
Again in Indonesia ("The Bravest Journalist I Know")
The Progressive (Madison, WI) March 30, 2010
Allan Nairn, Standing Up to Repressive Forces Again in Indonesia
By Matthew Rothschild
The bravest journalist I know is named Allan Nairn.
In the 1980s, he reported on the death squads in El Salvador for The Progressive by going there and talking to the death squad leaders themselves.
In the 1990s, he went to East Timor while it was occupied by Indonesia, and along with Amy Goodman, he put himself at the front of a protest, only to have his skull fractured by Indonesian soldiers.
Now he is confronting the Indonesian military once again.
Writing from Indonesia, where he now lives, Nairn reported last week that the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) "assassinated a series of civilian activists" in 2009.
This is an especially delicate time for the Indonesian armed forces, since President Obama has signaled that he's shamefully about to restore full military aid.
In response, the Indonesian military has threatened to have Nairn arrested and charged with criminal defamation, which could land Nairn behind bars for six years.
Intrepid as always, Nairn defies them to arrest him.
"I welcome this threat from the TNI, a force which has murdered many hundreds of thousands, and challenge them to arrest me so that we can face-off in open court," he told the media. (See www.allannairn.com.) Nairn said he also welcomed the opportunity to "question US military, CIA, State Department, and White House officials about their support for the TNI."
And Nairn challenged Indonesian judicial authorities.
"The Indonesian justice authorities are famously afraid of the TNI," he said. "They have not fulfilled their responsibility to protect society by enforcing the murder laws impartially.? But if they want to arrest me instead of arresting TNI officers, fine.? That will give us a chance to publicly discuss the crimes of the Indonesian -- and U.S. -- governments."
Nairn is taking a considerable risk here.
"The problem is, the Indonesian legal system is not likely to give him the opportunity to establish his case," writes Australian professor Damien Kingsbury, author of "Power Politics and the Indonesian Military," in a commentary published in the Australian paper The Age.
"If Nairn is arrested, he will likely spend months in jail before going to court. Once he gets to court, few if any of the witnesses he would like to call will attend. If any TNI officers do attend, they can be all but guaranteed not to confirm Nairn's allegations, regardless of their veracity."
But that's Allan Nairn for you.
At great personal peril, he's made himself into a thorn in the side of brutal militaries everywhere, and of the U.S. government that supports them.
Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.