Fri, 27 Jun 2003

'No need to establish information commission'

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Television industry figures argued on Thursday that disputes between the public and the state over access to information should be solved through the State Administrative Court rather than an information commission.

The secretary-general of the Television Community (Komteve) organization, Helmy Johannes, and the secretary-general of the Indonesian Television Journalists Association (IJTI), Rahman, said that setting up a new commission would be a waste of money.

"We already have too many commissions. It would be better if the dispute over information be brought to the State Administrative Court," Helmy said during a hearing with members of the House of Representatives' special committee for the deliberation of the freedom of information bill.

"It would only place an additional burden on the state budget," Rahman said.

The television industry figures were invited to provide input for the legislators in their deliberation of the much-awaited freedom of information bill.

Article 29 of the bill states that the proposed information commission would be an independent body tasked to settle disputes via mediation or adjudication.

The information commission would be set up at national, provincial and regency levels.

Although opposing the establishment of the information commission, the television industry figures agreed that there should be some information exempted from the public domain.

But, Helmy said, the proportion of information disclosed to the public must be greater than that exempted from disclosure.

According to Helmy, the freedom of information bill must ensure public access to information.

The information that could be exempted from the public domain included security information, commercial information, and information about the location of oil wells.

In addition to limits on access to specific information, the legislators are also preparing an official secrets bill to protect state secrets from the public.

Activists grouped under the Coalition for Freedom of Information have expressed fears that the official secrets bill will affect public access to information, and has repeatedly called for this bill to be incorporated into the freedom of information bill.

Despite suggestions from the coalition, the House has decided to discuss the two bills separately.

The chairman of the House committee in charge of deliberating the freedom of information bill, Paulus Widiyanto, said recently that the official secrets bill would be discussed after the freedom of information bill.

"A consultative meeting of faction leaders has agreed to discuss the secrets bill as soon as the deliberation of the freedom of information bill has finished," Paulus said.