Mon, 17 Apr 2000

Juwono lashes out at private television stations

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono criticized the way TV stations exposed social conflicts at home, saying the fierce competition among them has worsened the disputes.

"The way TV stations, such as RCTI, SCTV and ANteve, have presented their (flagrant) coverage have frequently provoked the situation in the field. This has happened in their coverage of the recent violence in Aceh, West Kalimantan and other provinces," he was quoted by Antara as addressing Indonesian citizens in New York on Friday.

Also attending the meeting were Consul General I Gusti Ngurah Swetja and Makmur Widodo, deputy ambassador to UN.

Juwono said openness and freedom of the press were the cost democracy has to pay.

But the cost was too expensive, with tension intensifying following news and comments broadcast by TV stations which are enjoying the freedom of the press, he said.

"Comments given by political observers have worsened the social conflicts. Politicians' rhetoric has incited their own supporters to attack each other," he said, referring to TV talk shows and political debate programs.

He said that in his capacity as defense minister, he could do nothing, but regretted those programs.

"Do they (TV stations) not imagine the possible impact of such coverage to human lives in the conflict areas?," he questioned.

The minister said President Abdurrahman Wahid was also deeply concerned with the way the TV stations covered the conflicts and he has expressed such a concern on several occasions, including in a recent seminar in the Borobudur Hotel.

"But, no TV stations or print media have exposed the president's concern," he said.

He said that despite the openness, print and electronic media should bear in mind their responsibility for the nation in carrying out their coverage. (rms)