Reporters Without Borders condemns today’s forcible closure of Radio Era Baru by police and frequency monitoring officials although last week’s conviction of its manager on a charge of broadcasting without permission and disrupting neighbouring frequencies is still the subject of an appeal.
The closure of the station, located in Batam (in Riau province), was carried by at least 30 officials including members of the military police and local police and representatives of the Communication and Information Ministry (Kominfo/Dirjen Postel), the Frequency Monitoring Agency (Balmon) and the Riau branch of the Indonesian Broadcasting Committee (KPID Kepri).
They arrived at Radio Era Baru at around 11 a.m., forced the padlock on the door of the transmitting room and, despite the protests of the journalists present, removed transmitting equipment, thereby preventing the station from continuing to broadcast.
Manager Gatot Machali explained to the police that last week’s ruling by a Batam court was not final because an appeal has been filed, but they paid no attention.
Reporters Without Borders calls on the local authorities to respect the judicial proceedings still under way, and reiterates its appeal to the government to protect freedom of the media and information in Indonesia.
9. september 2011 - Six months in jail for radio station manager who covered rights violations in China
Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the sentence of six months in prison and the suspended sentence of another year in prison that a court in the city of Batam passed yesterday on Gatot Machali, the manager of Batam-based Radio Era Baru, on a charge of broadcasting without permission and disrupting neighbouring frequencies.
Another three months will be added to Machali’s jail sentence if he is unable to pay the fine of 50 million rupees (5,800 US dollars) which the court also imposed.
Reporters Without Borders wrote today to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Minister of Law and Human Rights Patrialis Akbar asking them to intercede on behalf of Machali, whose conviction is believed to be the result of Chinese government pressure over the station’s broadcasts in Chinese about human rights violations in China:
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Mr. Patrialis Akbar Minister of Law and Human Rights
Paris, 7 September 2011
Subject: Request to quash Gatot Machali’s sentence
Dear President Yudhoyono, Dear Minister Akbar,
Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends media freedom, would like to draw your attention to the disproportionate sentence that was passed yesterday on Radio Era Baru manager Gatot Machali.
Concluding a prosecution that began in March, a panel of three judges in Batam (in Riau province) sentenced Mr. Machali to six months in prison, a suspended sentence of another year in prison and a fine of 50 million rupees (5,800 US dollars) on charges of broadcasting without permission and disrupting neighbouring frequencies. Mr. Machali has said he intends to appeal.
There are many reasons for thinking that Radio Era Baru and its manager were in fact prosecuted for political reasons.
Firstly, the Indonesian authorities have refused to grant the station a licence since 2007. It was forbidden to broadcast by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology’s frequency monitoring centre in Batam (Balai Monitor Frekuensi) on 28 March 2008, although it had complied with all technical requirements, including those specified by the Riau province branch of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPID), which gave the station permission to broadcast at the time of its launch.
Secondly, the problems that Radio Era Baru has been encountering since 2007 seem to be a result of the nature of some of the programmes it broadcasts. It often denounces human rights violations in China, including violations of the rights of Uyghurs, Tibetans and members of the banned religious movement Falun Gong.
According to the station’s president, Raymond Tan, citing the leaked copy of a letter from the Chinese embassy in Indonesia, the prosecution is the result of direct pressure by the Chinese government on the Indonesian authorities with the aim of preventing the station from broadcasting its programmes.
For these reasons, we deplore the harsh sentence imposed on Mr. Machali. It violates Indonesia’s laws and Constitution, which says in articles 28-E-3 and 28-F that each person has the right to freely “express his opinions” and to “spread information via all kinds of channels available.”
We therefore call on you to:
• Quash the Mr. Machali’s conviction, which is disproportionate and contrary to the fundamental principles and rights of freedom of expression.
• Authorize Radio Era Baru to resume broadcasting under the same conditions that prevailed at the time of its launch in 2005.
• Adopt measures to ensure that no external political pressure can be put on the Indonesian media.
We thank you in advance for the attention you give to these requests.
Jean-François Julliard Secretary-General