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Indonesia: Information Ministry Protest

Journalists Protest Possible Reopening Of Information Ministry

JAKARTA, July 28 (AFP) - Indonesian journalists are mounting a campaign to try to dissuade new president Megawati Sukarnoputri from reopening the information ministry, closed by her reformist predecessor in 1999, local media reports said Saturday.

The Jakarta Post said dozens of journalists staged a rally in front of the old information ministry building in central Jakarta on Friday.

They decried the rumored move as an attempt to reimpose controls on the freedom of the press.

Under the 32-year authoritarian rule of former president Suharto the information ministry closed down critical newspapers and magazines, including the leading national news weekly Tempo.

Tempo publisher Fikri Jufri told AFP on Saturday that he thought it was possible that Megawati might change the plan if the opposition among the

press was strong enough.

"Many Tempo journalists were among those who demonstrated yesterday" as members of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), who were joined by five other reform groups, Jufri said.

He said he understood that the new government's thinking was that "reform had gone too far and needed some regulation here and there".

He added that reportedly the major political parties, whom Megawati has pledged to include in her new cabinet, also backed the plan.

The ministry had also demanded compulsory membership of the Indonesian Journalists Association and controlled the press through publishing licences.

Its abolition was one of the first moves by now-ousted President Abdurrahman Wahid when he came to power in October 1999.

The Post said that on Friday AJI journalists in the central Javanese city of Yogyakarta also issued a statement protesting the reported move.

"The government's policies do not need to be publicized by a ministry of

information", said the Yogayakarta statement, signed by its chairman Rihil Fadjri.

+++niuswire

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