The story began last year when he wrote an op-ed at Koran Tempo daily, criticised Attorney General’s order to withdrawal history books for students regarding its ignorance in not explaining the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) role in 30 September coup d’etat 1965 (this is honestly a part of national history that still mysterious down to date).
So, here is the problem. Bersihar wrote his op-ed with title “the Story of a Dumb Interrogator” (Kisah Interogrator yang Dungu). He said a word “dumb” to explain attorney general’s reckless action on the book withdrawal. The “dumb” word itself is not originally come from him, actually. He just quoted it from Joesoef Ishak, the owner of Hasta Mitra publishing house, who published some Pramoedya Ananta Toer's books (and later the books were banned by Attorney General) when he interviewed by MEDIUM magazine once time.
As the result, Attorney General sued Bersihar, said that the op-ed has insulted the attorney general. They brought this case to the court and placed Bersihar as the accused.
From Gatra to Gamma
I worked with him for several years. He was one of my mentor in journalism and someone who teach me day by day during that period about how to be a good writer (and journalist).
I met him for the first time in 1995 when I joined Gatra national weekly news magazine. Bang (Elder Brother) Ber, that’s what people used to call him, just moved from
“Young brother, a writer is like a story teller,” he preached me, during our deadline nights. “The difference is about the medium. As a writer you type your words while as a story teller you utter them. Another difference is that as a writer you must tell the truth, reality…”
He likes detail and rich facts from his reporters, so he can explore and use those all in his stories. I remember we wrote analysis on Soeharto’s fall in 1998 for cover story. We interviewed William Liddle, a professor and Indonesianist from Ohio State Universtiy, Columbus. Two days before New Year 1999, we moved together from Gatra to GAMMA magazine along with some other colleagues.
Work, Debate, Hang Out
But, you know, in our work, I didn’t always agree with him on some principles and issues. So sometimes we had hot debates when selecting some critical issues for articles or cover stories. It’s really hot debates. But after that, everything back to the normal again.
The good thing was that outside of work we have a place to hang out together: a small outdoor sport equipment shop in Kalibata managed by my friend Bambang Hamid Sujatmoko a.k.a. Abeng. This guy is a senior reporter and member of Wanadri Mountain Climber Club,
After I resigned from the magazine, I visited him several times at his new office at Kemang. But after that, we never meet again, until then I heard his case. I sent him short message, gave my full support for his legal process. “Thanks, let’s plan to meet again with some friends,” he replied.
Nobody knows yet what the decision will be taken by judge. However, lot of supports came to him since the case revealed in media. I think all journalists and writers, including me, clearly stand up along him. Bringing a writer to the court because his/her opinion (and nothing wrong with the opinion) is believed will threat people to speak out their mind in this republic. (ah)