Indonesia’s top court cleared Time magazine of charges it had defamed former dictator Suharto in a cover story that alleged his family amassed billions of dollars during his decades-long rule.
The court said the publication did not have to pay $106 million in damages to his estate.
The ruling, which marks the end of the appeals process, was hailed as a victory for press freedom.
“We have been struggling to find justice for a decade now,” said Todung Mulya Lubis, the magazine’s lawyer. “It has been a long road.”
Time ran a cover story in its Asian edition in May 1999 saying Suharto’s family had pocketed billions of dollars during his 32-year rule — the bulk of it from oil and mining, forestry, property, banking and petrochemicals — and that they’d stashed much of the money overseas.
Lubis said the article was based on four months’ reporting in 11 countries.
Suharto, who died last year at the age of 87, initially filed lawsuits against the magazine with the Central District Jakarta Court and later the Jakarta High Court, both of which ruled in Time’s favour. But in August 2007, the country’s top court overturned the decisions, prompting the magazine to demand a judicial review.
Supreme Court Judge Hatta Ali said Thursday the article “did not violate the law” or breach ethical standards.
He said Time owed no money to the Suharto family.