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Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 13:02 GMT
Indonesia passes controversial media bill
Students celebrate the downfall of President Suharto in 1998
Critics fear the new bill will curb post-Suharto freedoms

Parliament in Indonesia has passed a controversial new bill to regulate broadcasting.


Broadcasters say their voices are being deliberately stifled

Supporters of the bill say new controls are needed to ensure that regional news is given sufficient airtime, and to create competition in the broadcast industry.

But critics say the new laws are draconian and will severely restrict journalistic freedom.

After three years of often heated debate the new broadcasting bill has finally been signed into law.

In future no independent broadcaster will be allowed to transmit its programmes across the whole of Indonesia. It will have to seek out local regional partners.

The government says this will prevent the growth of unhealthy monopolies and ensure that news coverage is not dominated by events in Jakarta.

Censorship fears

But broadcasters say their voices are being deliberately stifled.

The central pillar of the new law is the creation of a national broadcasting commission made up of experts chosen by parliament and answerable to President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

The commission will have the power to shut down immediately any TV or radio station which it decides has contravened the new law.

The problem is, much of the wording of the bill remains vague, leaving a good deal of scope for interpretation.

In a change to earlier drafts, the bill does now permit foreign news broadcasters to relay programmes live on local Indonesian frequencies, but the details are still being worked out.

The law may have been passed, but there is still plenty of confusion here about its implementation.

See also:

24 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
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