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Monday, June 15, 1998 Published at 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK


Despatches

Indonesia lifts media controls

Trapped: a student protest against repression under the Suharto regime in April

By the BBC's Jakarta correspondent, Jonathan Head

In yet another move towards liberalisation, the new Indonesian Government has removed the main mechanisms used to control the media by former President Suharto.

Under the old system, all newspapers and magazines required a licence from the government which could be and often was revoked if they published articles which offended those in power.

The most notorious case of such censorship ironically involved President Habibie while he was still a minister under Suharto.

Three of Indonesia's most popular current affairs magazines were banned in 1994 after they reported splits between Mr. Habibie and the military.

Now Mr. Habibie's government has given up its power to ban magazines and newspapers.

The government is also making it much easier to get a publishing licence and has removed the state's monopoly on radio news.

Independent radio stations are now free to broadcast their own news and to use broadcast material from abroad.

The editor of one of the magazines banned in 1994 said the decision was a great step in the right direction but he urged the government to remove the requirement for licences altogether.

He and other editors are now planning to re-publish their once-banned magazines.

But in the dire economic conditions prevailing in Indonesia today, they acknowledge that having broken free of the official censors their efforts could still be defeated by a simple lack of money.



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