In Indonesia former dictator Suharto has pressed charges against Time Magazine. Suharto considered an article devoted to him to be a libelous. The Indonesian Supreme Court has ordered Time Magazine to pay damages in the amount of 77 million euro. Kennedy Van der Laan is involved on behalf of several large international media parties in drafting an “amicus letter” in the pending review procedure in this case.
In 1999 Time Magazine Asia published an article in which Suharto and his family were accused of having amassed a great personal capital during Suharto’s rule, and of having channeled this capital abroad. Suharto considered the article and the cartoons included in it to be libelous and claimed damages. His claims were denied both in first instance and on appeal. However, in the judgment of the Supreme Court of 30 August 2007 the claims were allowed after all, and Time Magazine was ordered to pay “the Great General of the Indonesian National Army (Retired)” damages amounting to one trillion rupiah, no less than 77 million euro. This judgment may have large consequences for the freedom of the press in Indonesia and for international (media) corporations that are active and have assets in Indonesia.
Indonesian law has the option of requesting a judicial review of a judgment of the Supreme Court. Such a request is treated by a new panel of judges. Time Magazine has used this option, and its request for a review will be submitted in the near future.
Because of the impact of the judgment, a number of large international media parties have taken the initiative of submitting an “amicus letter” as known under U.S. law. This document will contain a concise rebuttal of the judgment and request attention for the great consequences this judgment may have, should it become final and conclusive.
Kennedy Van der Laan has been asked to contribute to the “amicus letter” since Indonesian law is partly based on Dutch law. For example, the judgment contains a reference to what is perhaps the best known landmark tort case of the Dutch Supreme Court: the Cohen/Lindenbaum judgment from 1919, also known in the Netherlands as Lindenbaum/Cohen.
If you represent an entity interested in participating as amicus in the brief or if you have any questions on this case, please contact Jens van den Brink.