July 30, 2001
Her Excellency Megawati Sukarnoputri
President, Republic of Indonesia
Office of the President
Bina Graha, Jalan Veteran No. 1
Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia
Via Facsimile: 62-21-778-182
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wishes to congratulate you on your appointment as the new president of Indonesia. As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, we hope that you will use your authority to preserve and strengthen recent gains in press freedom.
CPJ is concerned about reports that your party is considering reinstatement of the Ministry of Information–a department which, under the authoritarian rule of Indonesia’s former president Suharto, was used to censor and control the country’s media.
The abolition of the ministry, coupled with a liberal print media law passed in the fall of 1999, led to a dramatic expansion of Indonesia’s media, with hundreds of lively publications emerging to explore the political and social changes sweeping the country. The 1999 laws eliminated press licensing requirements and guaranteed that the press would be “free from any interference and intrusion.”
On July 27, Indonesian journalists across the country began vigorous protests to prevent any attempt to revive the Ministry of Information. The protests followed reports in local and international media that members of your Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle favor the reimposition of bureaucratic checks on the country’s press.
The abolition of press controls in Indonesia is one of the most important of the political reforms undertaken in recent years. One of the tests of any democratic country is its commitment to guaranteeing freedom of the press, particularly during times of political transition, when all people must be permitted to present dissenting views.
CPJ urges Your Excellency to ensure publicly that your new administration will not take any steps to curtail the hard-won freedoms of the Indonesian press.
We thank you for your attention to this urgent matter, and look forward to your response.
Ann K. Cooper