Mon, 15 Aug 1994

British TV body suspends RI forestry commercials

JAKARTA (JP): The Independent Television Commission (ITC) of Britain has suspended controversial commercials paid for by the Indonesian Forestry Community (MPI), following complaints from a number of viewers and environmental groups, an environmentalist said over the weekend.

Terry Brookes, the project coordinator of Down to Earth, a London-based non-governmental organization, told The Jakarta Post in a telephone interview on Saturday that ITC had decided to ban the ad because of its "unrealistically positive picture of forestry practice in Indonesia."

Brookes quoted the ITC as saying that the ad was suspended because the claims it made were not justified and that it was in breach of the ITC Code of Advertising Standards and Practices which forbids political advertising.

A. Tjipto Wignjoprajitno, the executive president of the Association of Indonesian Wood Panel Producers (Apkindo), however, responded on Saturday that the protests of the environmentalists were made out of ignorance, referring to Indonesia's convertible forests, which are legally allowed to be clear-cut.

Down to Earth opposes the ad which claims that clearcutting of forests in Indonesia is not permitted and that 280 million acres, or 79 percent of the forested land, has been classified as a vast permanent forest.

The ad is currently being shown on Dutch TV, CNN International, CNN of the United States, the Hong Kong-based Star TV, which broadcasts its satellite channel all over Asia, including to Indonesia, as well as on Indonesian channels, which include TVRI, RCTI, SCTV, TPI and ANteve.

ITC suspended airing of the advertisement, which was shown on Channel 4 and two London-based satellite channels, the UK Gold and the Discovery, from July 9.

According to Tjipto, the Indonesian government has introduced a four-segment classification of forests, which covers preservation forests, national parks or refuges, industrial forests and conversion forests.

"If someone wants to establish a plantation, of course, he has to clear-cut a certain area of conversion forests," he said, adding that population growth and economic activities force the government to legally permit the clearcutting of a forest.

"But you're not allowed even to enter a refuge or a national park. Don't touch that area," he bluntly responded in a telephone interview.

Illegal cutting

A number of environmental organizations, including Down to Earth, EarthARC, Environmental Investigation Agency and Greenpeace, complained about the advertisement and produced evidence querying the statements and inferences made by the commercial, which led to the ban.

Touching on the issue of illegal cutting, Tjipto said that 500,000 families of farmers throughout the country depend on the slash and burning method.

"How can we stop them? We cannot observe this problem with a Western point of view," he added, referring to the protest of international NGOs over illegal cutting.

Minister of Forestry Djamaloedin Soeryohadikoesoemo, timber baron Muhammad (Bob) Hasan, who chairs the MPI and Apkindo, as well as executives of ITC, were not available for comment on Saturday.

Brookes said that in a bid to combat calls to boycott Indonesian timber, earlier this year Bob Hasan had launched a major global timber campaign, which included a trip to European countries and a major advertising campaign, with "an unlimited fund."

She added that the mainstay of the campaign consists of a very luscious television advertisement promoting Indonesia's sustainable forestry practices.

"The timber industries' interest is only selling their products and cutting down the forests," she said.

Tjipto, however, said that ITC had only suspended the advertisement, stressing that the independent commission has not prohibited the advertisement.

"We're always open for discussion. And we have sent letters asking the commission to clarify the reason for the current ban," he said, adding that the move against the advertisement is "a little bit politically overtoned."

According to Down to Earth, ITC published the decision to ban the advert in its July issue of a monthly publication, the Television Advertising Monthly Complaints Report.(09)