Fri, 18 May 2001

Groups seek revision of broadcasting bill

JAKARTA (JP): Thirty groups from various professional fields have united in their fight to revise a broadcasting bill as legislators continued to snub proposed revisions to the bill, which is entering its penultimate deliberation stage at the House of Representatives.

The 30 groups signed a declaration on Thursday to band together in their struggle to revise the bill, which they charge curbs media freedom.

Most of the groups hail from the media with organizations such as the Indonesian Journalists Association, the Alliance of Independent Journalists, the Association of Indonesian Broadcasting Television and the Press Council.

However the diverse background of the groups also includes the All Indonesian Cinema Organization, the Association of Indonesian Cigarette Producers, and the Association of Indonesian Public Relations Companies.

The groups also stated in their declaration that the freedom of speech, the dissemination and right to obtain information is threatened under the bill as it, among other things, places the government as the supreme authority issuing permission for radio frequency broadcasts.

"The bill is very repressive. Instead of replacing the old authoritarian law, legislators have made a more authoritarian one," Azkarmin Zaini from the Press Council told a media conference here.

Coordinator of the Indonesian Press and Broadcasting Society (MPPI) Leo Batubara said the House and government have once again come up with a broadcasting bill that restricts media freedom.

He pointed to several articles that he said were clearly unconstitutional.

Article 16, while it is aimed at avoiding the monopolization of technology and capital, is said to be too extreme by prohibiting the cross-ownership of media enterprises. It prevents an individual from owning various mass-media organizations.

More concern was expressed on Article 8 which stipulates that the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) has the authority to recommend a broadcasting station for a license, impose sanctions and establish a code of conduct for the broadcasting community.

Leo worried about the vast authority being given to KPI, arguing that sanctions should be imposed only after hearing the defense of broadcast stations or after a court ruling had been issued.

Gilang Iskandar of the Indonesian Television Community said that hopefully the House will openly listen and discuss possible changes at the next session.

"Other countries will laugh at us if we impose this law," he said. (hdn)