Sat, 22 Feb 2003

Broadcasting law takes effect without President's approval

Zakki Hakim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The much criticized broadcasting law has taken effect without approval of President Megawati Soekarnoputri, who refrained from signing the legislation due to mounting protests against it.

The President's refusal to ink the bill endorsed by the House of Representatives is unusual, although it does not affect the legitimacy of the broadcasting law. The amended Constitution enables a bill to take effect 30 days after its passage with or without the President's approval.

It was the second time that a broadcasting bill failed to obtain the presidential nod. The old broadcasting bill endorsed by the House in 1997 was rejected by President Soeharto. It was returned to the House, but its redeliberation was not completed before Soeharto was forced to step down in May 1998.

State Minister for Communication and Information Syamsul Mu'arif said on Friday Megawati might be reluctant to sign the law because she was trying to evade the waves of protest from the society.

He played down the absence of the President's approval, saying Law No. 32/2002 had in fact come into effect and that Megawati had asked him to enforce the law.

Legislator Paulus Widianto, who chaired the House special committee deliberating the broadcasting bill, told The Jakarta Post whether the law was signed or not made no difference because the law had been enacted legally and Megawati did order Mu'arif to execute it immediately.

The broadcasting law had sparked protests from people in the broadcasting industry from the time it was about to be enacted by the House last November.

The law is regarded by many as repressive because it gives the authorities new power to interfere in broadcasting activities, which could eventually lead to censorship.

In addition, the law mandates the establishment of the powerful Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI), which would have sweeping powers over the broadcasting industry.

Syamsul said his office had initiated the forming of the KPI and started drafting complementary government regulations.

"As of Thursday, seven candidates have applied to become KPI members," Syamsul told a press conference on the broadcasting law.

According to the office's press release there are at least 131 candidates interested in becoming KPI members. However, they have not returned their application forms yet.

KPI will have nine members, who will be selected by the House.

The deadline for returning the forms is set for Feb. 28, and a selection team will then process and submit them to the House on March 4, before its recess.