TITLE=ACEH / MEDIA
INTRO: Journalists in Indonesia are facing
prosecution for broadcasting interviews with the
leader of separatist rebels in the troubled
northern Aceh province. Bronwyn Curran reports
from Jakarta, four television journalists have
been accused of breaking a law against
threatening national unity.
TEXT: Private television stations began receiving
police summonses two months ago, around the time
the government of former president B-J Habibie
introduced the country's first ever press freedom
They were told they had violated the law by
running interviews with an Aceh rebel leader.
Police spokesman Colonel Salaeh Saaf says the
broadcasts are considered illegal because they
undermine national unity and harmony.
///SAAF ACT: IN BAHASA, ESTAB. THEN FADE UNDER
AND OUT ///
Colonel Salaeh says two commercial stations, SCTV
and ANTEVE, gave publicity to false claims by the
commander of the Aceh independence movement. The
police spokesman says the claims upset existing
community opinions and that such reports, which
do not result in the consolidation of national
unity, should not be tolerated.
Colonel Salaeh says the change of government has
not stopped the investigation, because the law
remains in effect.
Opening up the country's hitherto tightly
controlled press was one of the hallmarks of Mr.
Habibie's 18-months in office. But press freedom
activists say the police action against the
television stations shows control over the news
media is re-emerging -- this time from a new
The activists say they suspect that with the
disbanding of the Information Ministry by new
President Abdurrahman Wahid, the police have now
taken over the ministry's role of controlling
media content. Despen Ompusunggu heads the
Indonesian Committee to Protect Journalists.
/// OMPUSUNGGU ACT ///
Before the transition period, if the media
have a case, it was handled by the
information department. But now the
Indonesian police have become a new censor.
/// END ACT ///
The lawyer co-ordinating the journalists'
defense, Johnson Panjaitan, alleges the police
are intimidating the media, despite the recent
enshrinement of press freedoms in the law. He
believes the police are not alone in seeking to
control coverage of the Aceh separatist movement.
///PANJAITAN ACT IN BAHASA, ESTABLISH AND FADE
UNDER AND OUT ///
Mr. Panjaitan says people who are considered
suspects in this case say they believe the police
are actually carrying out orders from military
headquarters. The journalists, he says, believe
the interview with the Aceh rebel commander is an
embarrassment to the armed forces because they
have been unable to find him.
Mr. Panjaitan says that the broadcasts pose no
threat to national unity, but do threaten the
authorities' monopoly on information about the
pro-independence movement in Aceh.
///PANJAITAN ACT IN BAHASA WITH ENGLISH VOICE
He says that apart from being embarrassed, the
military wants to cut off the channels of
information which - the lawyer says -- help
people understand what is really happening in
Aceh. Mr. Panjaitan says up until now, the
authorities have been free to mislead the public
without fear of contradiction.
The case against the television journalists is
still making its way through the legal system.
Should it get to court, Indonesia's new Wahid
government will see two of its highest priorities
in conflict - free expression pitted against the
preservation of the unity of an archipelago
punctured by several separatist movements.
10-Nov-1999 07:17 AM EDT (10-Nov-1999 1217 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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