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Chinese Hand Seen In Media Meddling

By Ismira Lutfia, The Jakarta Globe
February 05, 2009

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology declined to grant the Batam-based Era Baru radio station a broadcasting license following a request from the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta for the government to terminate its operations, a lawyer claimed on Wednesday.

The private station, which has been on air for several years, is run by a foundation linked to the China-based Falun Gong movement, an organization banned by the Chinese government.

Endar Sumarsono, a lawyer from the Legal Aid Foundation for the Press, submitted 25 sets of documents on Wednesday to the State Administrative Court, or PTUN, as evidence of what he said was the Chinese Embassy’s direct involvement in the ministry decision not to grant the license .

The documents included a letter, purportedly from the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta, asking the Indonesian government “to terminate the license of [Radio Era Baru].”

The letter, dated April 8, 2007, was addressed to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Copies were allegedly sent to the State Intelligence Agency, the Home Affairs Ministry, the Communications and Information Technology Ministry and the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission.

“[The letter] strongly indicated that there was intervention from the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta,” Endar said, adding that the ministry had not provided a clear reason for its decision.

Gatot Dewa Broto, spokesman for the Communications and Information Technology Ministry, denied on Wednesday that the Chinese Embassy had a hand in the ministry’s decision.

“We never received the complaint letter allegedly sent by the [Chinese] Embassy,” Gatot said, adding that this is not an era where the government would interfere and apply strict censorship on the media content.

“It was simply for technical reasons,” he said.

He said that the radio station had breached some of the ministry’s broadcasting regulations.

A provincial broadcasting commission official also said that Era Baru aired 90 percent of its programs in Chinese, a violation of the 60 percent cap imposed by the commission.

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