CPJ condemns government ban of critical radio station

New York, December 19, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the local Southeast Maluku government’s order to shut down Radio Gelora Tavlul, a popular station in eastern Indonesia known for its criticism of the local government.

Authorities accompanied by police entered the radio station in the remote city of Tual, capital of the Southeast Maluku regency, about 1,600 miles (2,575 kilometers) east of Jakarta, on Thursday and ordered it to stop broadcasting because its business license had expired.

The local administration rejected the station’s request for a renewal of its business license, saying that Radio Gelora Tavlul had aired stories about alleged local corruption “too often,” the Jakarta Post reported.

Radio Gelora Tavlul is a member of the independent 68H broadcasting network and features news and talk shows critical of the local government, according to the Alliance of Independent Journalists or AJI, a local press freedom group. AJI protested the government’s action, saying it violates Indonesia’s constitutional guarantee of free speech and the protections of its press law.

In an interview with the Jakarta Post, station Director Joost F. Rettobjaan vowed to continue broadcasting and accused the government of issuing the ban in retaliation for news stories that alleged misappropriation of local government funds.

Fredy Melmambessy, the head of the Maluku chapter of the Indonesia Broadcasting Commission, or KPI, said in an interview with the Jakarta Post that the local government’s actions were illegal because only the KPI has the authority to close a broadcaster.

“The government’s barefaced attempt to censor a critical independent radio station is outrageous and against the public interest,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Journalists in remote areas must be protected from crackdowns by local authorities—in this case, by officials intent on keeping their own actions secret.”