Sunday, September 11, 1994

Right from the beginning

The Alliance of Independent Journalists
Rumah Susun Tanah Abang Lt. II No. 4
Jl. K.H. Mansyur 39
Jakarta 10240
tel. 62-21-315 5918

JAKARTA: The history of media bans in the Indonesian archipelago dates back as early as 1744, when the first tabloid, the Bataviache Nouvelles, was closed by the reigning Dutch East Indies Company (VOC).

Since then, it is not uncommon for the local mass media to face risk of being closed down. The other colonial rulers, the British and the Japanese, also frequently censored and closed down any media they perceived as opposing their interests. Now, after 250 years, the story continues with a different ruler.

Unlike the previous bans, toward which journalists avoided publicly expressing their dissatisfaction, the latest media closure has developed unprecedented solidarity among them.

Young reporters staged protests at the compound of the state-sponsored Association of Indonesian Journalists (PWI). They urged its executives to demand that the Minister of Information, Harmoko, who stands behind the ban, cancel his decision.

Some journalists, the activists of the protests, are also being intimidated by their superiors, who were scared to follow the fate of the three media.

Dhia Prekasha Yoedha, a journalist from Kompas daily, which has the biggest circulation in the country, 600,000, was reprimanded by his superiors and is facing the threats of dismissal.

Adi Lazuardi of the state-owned Antara news agency is facing a similar fate. Journalists from other media such as the Pos Kota, which belongs to Harmoko, and the Bisnis Indonesia dailies are in the same boat.

AJI's main objective is to fight for the freedom of the press in Indonesia. "We reject all kinds of interference, intimidation, censorship and media bans which deny the freedom of speech and open access to information," the declaration says.

AJI also says that it refuses the concept of a single compulsory organization for journalists which is imposed by the Soeharto administration.

Santoso, the secretary-general of AJI, said that Indonesian journalists should not passively wait for changes any longer. "We have to fight against this media ban and say no to media bans," he said in his election speech. He told Indonesian journalists they will have to fight together against the two-and-a-half century habit of press bans.

"We cannot do anything but protest. And please, tell the world that a number of journalists in this country are starting to stand before the truth," Yoedha, a member of the presidium of AJI, said.

Presidium member of AJI:

Ahmad Taufik (tel. 62-22-215 599 fax. 62-22-215 029)
Dhia Prekasha Yoedha (tel. 62-21-520 2170 fax. 62-21-548 6085)
Nurrudin Amin (tel. 62-274-62 597 fax. 62-274-88 795)
Santoso (tel. 62-21-725 5625 fax. 62-21-725 5645)
Zed Abidin (tel. 62-31-515 233 fax. 62-31-510 703)

Bank account: Bank BNI 246.78010707.5 (Jl. Rasuna Said - Jakarta)