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Indonesian Govt's Controversial Broadcasting Rules

Govt Pushes Ahead With Controversial Broadcasting Rules

JAKARTA (JP Online/Pacific Media Watch): Defying opposition from lawmakers and media groups, the Indonesian government says it will enforce a new regulation that bans local broadcasters from directly relaying news from foreign TV and radio stations.

"The government regulation will be enforced on Feb. 5 to avoid lawlessness in the broadcasting industry," State Minister of Communications and Information Sofyan Djalil said Monday during a meeting with the House of Representatives.

Sofyan said there were more than 1000 companies waiting for broadcasting licenses, which could not be approved until the regulation was implemented.

Legislators and broadcasting organizations have demanded that the information ministry delay implementing the regulation, pending talks with the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) to discuss possible revisions.

Sofyan said the government was willing to talk to the KPI to revise several articles in the regulation that were deemed controversial.

The regulation will take effect two months after the government first agreed to postpone its implementation, following a meeting with legislators last month.

KPI deputy chairman S. Sinansari Ecip has threatened to file a judicial review with the Supreme Court to stop the regulation becoming policy.

The government ruling is based on the 2002 Broadcasting Law. That law is expected to be revised after protests from the KPI and other critics, who said it was unclear and could have multiple interpretations.

Contentious issues in the regulation include stopping local electronic media from directly relaying news provided by foreign agencies, and an article reviving the information ministry's power to issue broadcasting licenses.

Many radio and TV stations in the country broadcast news and current affairs programs from a range of international sources, including the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Australia, Deutsche Welle of Germany and Radio Hilversum of the Netherlands.

Shortwave programming by BBC and VOA stations will not be affected by the ban, nor will it affect foreign content on satellite news and cable channels or the Internet.

Several legislators and broadcasting associations have criticized the regulation as "repressive", saying it could be misused to curb press freedom in Indonesia.

They say the independent KPI, not the information ministry, should be granted the authority to issue broadcasting licenses.

Dedi Djamaluddin, a legislator from the National Mandate Party, likened the current information ministry to "the past Deppen", the repressive New Order ministry, which often revoked broadcasters and publishers' licenses when they criticized the government.

"Why doesn't (the minister) talk with the KPI first and finish (the revisions) a month before implementing the controversial regulation? This would be reasonable," he said.

Sofyan, however, said he planned to issue another ministerial decree to allow radio and TV stations to edit foreign programs before they were broadcast.

Officials at Sofyan's office said the KPI should not be given the power to license broadcasters because they didn't want the independent commission "to become the next Deppen".

+++niuswire

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