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TIME appealing Indonesia Suharto defamation judgment

[JURIST] Jakarta lawyers for TIME magazine [media website] are ready to file their appeal of a defamation judgment [JURIST report] by the Supreme Court of Indonesia awarding $106 million in damages to former Indonesian President Haji Mohammad Suharto [CNN profile; JURIST news archive], a lawyer told the The Age Wednesday. Suharto sued TIME over a 1999 article [text] that said Suharto had hidden billions of dollars in foreign banks. The Supreme Court overturned two lower court decisions against Suharto, ordering TIME to pay damages and publish a formal apology in Indonesian newspapers and its own magazine. Todung Mulya Lubis [firm profile], one of TIME's lawyers and a prominent human rights advocate, told The Age that the case "goes to the very fundamental principles of press freedom and democracy in Indonesia," but said that he was confident that the ruling would be overturned because the review judges would not want to stifle the freedom of the press. The Age has more.

In the 2007 annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index [index materials] compiled by Reporters Without Borders [advocacy website], Indonesia is ranked 100th out of the 167 countries listed, a small improvement from its 2006 ranking of 103rd, but still far lower than its rank of 57th when the index was first published in 2002. The group's report on Indonesia [text] shows marginal gains for the freedom of the press in the country, including the decriminalization of "insult to the head of state" and a decrease in violence against reporters, but still cites journalist safety, criminal laws against press offenses, and the certain bans on foreign press as major obstacles.

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