Freedom of the Press
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The Indonesian press was at a critical junction in 2005, as media analysts and lawmakers feared that the new administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was tightening government control over broadcast media through a series of administrative regulations that threaten to undermine the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI). Under current law, the KPI has the right to issue and revoke the licenses of broadcasters, but new regulations on foreign, private, community, and subscription-based broadcasters would grant this power to the state. The Ministry of Communications and Information claims the Constitutional Court has ruled that the government has the power to regulate broadcasting issues. In December, after a contentious hearing, the government and the House of Representatives agreed to postpone for two months the implementation of the new regulations and to amend the articles that have been blamed for the controversy.
Journalists continued to be prosecuted in 2005 for criminal defamation under the criminal code. In May, two journalists from the weekly newspaper Koridor in Lampung were sentenced to prison. Tempo magazine chief editor Bambang Harymurti was still awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court over his appeal of the one-year prison sentence that resulted from an article published in 2003. Appeals in civil cases resulting from the story, which linked millionaire businessman Tomy Winata to a fire in the Tanah Abang textile market, were still ongoing. Although the Parliament has been considering revisions to the criminal code, the revised code contains articles that are even more restrictive than the original. The number of such provisions has increased from 35 articles to 49 in the latest draft version. Nine of these articles carry clauses that can impose a lifelong ban on a person from working as a journalist. The insult of public officials continues to carry harsh penalties in Indonesia.
Journalists continued to face intimidation and threats of physical violence from the public. In June, the management of Radar Sulteg, the largest newspaper in central Sulawesi, halted publication for three days following protests over an article entitled "Islam: A Failed Religion." After questioning witnesses from the newspaper as well as from the local branch of the Indonesian Ulema Council, police charged the writer with "insulting Islam." In December, supporters of a gang leader named Hercules took over the Jakarta office of the newspaper Indo Pos and injured two reporters-one of whom suffered a broken nose-because of an article they didn't like. The group claimed they had never been interviewed by the reporter who wrote the story. Finally, the Film Censor Agency banned two films about East Timor from appearing at the Jakarta International Film Festival in December. Authorities stated that the films would "open up old wounds" and potentially disturb the bilateral relationship between the two countries.
Indonesia is home to a large independent media that is generally able to provide a wide variety of opinions and perspectives. The broadcast market includes some 60 private radio stations in the Jakarta area alone and 10 private television networks nationwide that operate in competition with the public Televisi Republik Indonesia. Strict licensing laws have created more than 2,000 illegal television and radio stations that operate on a regular basis without a license. Internet use is on the rise with over 10 million users and no reported government restrictions on its access.