By Ridwan Sijabat
Jakarta Post,Tuesday, July 19, 2005
In light of recent broadcast restrictions, NGOs refer to Indonesian Constitution and its freedom of information clause to decry government’s decree
A group of non-governmental organizations joined forces on Monday to protest a ministerial decree requiring radio and television stations to reduce their airtime as part of the government’s energy conservation drive.
Agus Sudibyo, coordinator of the Coalition for the Free Flow of Information and the Alliance for Defenders of Chapter 28, said Ministerial Decree No. 11/2005 reflected the government’s confusion over how to cope with the fuel crisis in the country.
“The prolonged crisis has caused the government to panic, prompting it to formulate a strange policy that violates human rights,” Agus said.
He said the coalition of NGOs rejected the decree because it violated Chapter 28 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of information.
“The decree shows that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s government is reminiscent of former president Soeharto’s repressive New Order regime,” Agus said, adding that the decree violated Susilo’s commitment to uphold press freedom.
The NGOs called on Minister of Information and Communications Sofyan Djalil to revoke the controversial decree.
“We are seeking a meeting with the President to convey our opposition and with House of Representatives Commission I to help us put pressure on the government to scrap the decree,” Agus said.
The decree was issued last week to follow up on a presidential instruction on energy conservation measures. The decree asks all radio and television stations to sign off from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Live European soccer matches are excluded to honor the contracts signed by local TV channels, as are religious programs during the upcoming Ramadhan fasting month.
The decree is effective for six months from its issuance.
All TV and radio stations have agreed to the decree in a show of support for the government’s conservation campaign.
The Association of Indonesian Private TV Stations (ATVSI) has said that TV stations were complying with the decree because besides conserving energy, there were few viewers between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. and very little advertising revenue.
ATVSI chairman Karni Ilyas, who is also the newsroom director of SCTV, said TV stations could save at least Rp 1 billion every night by going off the air from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Hanif Suranto from the Institution for Press Studies and Development said the decree violated freedom of expression.
Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, a former member of the Press Council, regretted the controversial decree was issued without consulting the Indonesian Broadcasting Council or the Press Council.
“Limiting airtime is not only a business matter but, and mainly, a violation of human rights. The government cannot take such an arbitrary action even if the number of TV viewers affected is small,” he said.
The government did meet with TV station owners and management before the decree was issued.
Date Posted: 7/19/2005