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Indonesia’s bid to revise broadcasting law draws flack

Media groups say revision will suppress press freedom by banning investigative journalism
A view of the Indonesian parliament.

A view of the Indonesian parliament. (Photo: dpr.go.id)

Published: May 14, 2024 06:48 AM GMT
Updated: May 14, 2024 07:27 AM GMT

Journalist groups in Indonesia have condemned what they say is a government move to revise a press law to ban the broadcasting of investigative reports.

“What is the basis of this prohibition? This ban will actually suppress the press," said Yadi Hendriana, chairman of the ethics commission of the state-owned Press Council.

The media in Indonesia is regulated under Law Number 40 of 1999 and there are guidelines ratified by the Press Council, he observed.

"So, no other laws regulate the press," he said.

A revision of the broadcasting law was discussed by lawmakers in parliament over the weekend and was widely circulated among the public.

Meutya Hafid, chairwoman of the Communications and Information Technology Commission in parliament, said the new law is aimed at creating a "sustainable broadcasting industry."

"Apart from that, the existing broadcasting law is no longer relevant," she said.

There is no plan to prohibit "journalistic investigative broadcasts,” she claimed, adding that the parliamentary commission can examine the concerns of the media groups.

Bayu Wardana, secretary general of the Alliance of Independent Journalists, called the investigative reports ban "confusing."  It can be "interpreted as silencing the press,” he added.

"This is really strange, why can't there be investigations in broadcasting?" he asked.

Wardhana said it will affect broadcasting on television and radio and the public will get “ceremonial news” instead of critical news,  he said.

Currently, the power to resolve journalistic disputes is with the Press Council. Under the new law, the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission will decide.

The chances of overlapping are high, Hafid noted.

"The bill aims to take away the authority of the Press Council and will complicate disputes," he observed.

Herik Kurniawa, general chairman of the Indonesian Television Journalists’ Association, said the draft "seems to have been prepared carelessly and has the potential to threaten press freedom."

"Moreover, the revision did not involve the press community," he said.

Father Stefanus Kelen, deputy chairman of the Social Communications Commission of Pangkalpinang diocese in Bangka Belitung province, asked, "Why is it necessary to prohibit investigative reporting?"

"Investigative reporting is a journalistic approach that aims to inform the truth.”

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