China suspected behind radio closure

The Communications and Information Technology Ministry has told a private radio station to halt its news broadcasts because it is deemed to have no broadcasting license and is interfering with other radio frequencies.

However, the Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) suspected the action against Radio Era Baru was made after political pressure from the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta.

It is the latest in a string of warnings against the station, which promotes Falun Gong, a
system of beliefs and practices that are banned in China.

In 2007, the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPID) closely monitored the radio station
after the embassy reported the station had allegedly aired political campaigns that might harm relations between the two countries.

Early last year, the government rejected the extension of the station’s broadcasting license, a move that was also suspected to have been linked with the embassy’s influence.

On Monday, station director Raymond Tan and Soleh Ali from LBH Press held a media
conference to announce the ministry’s warning administered to the station through the government radio monitoring body.

“We have been warned four times by the monitoring body to stop broadcasting. The Chinese government is behind the effort to close our radio station because we are considered to continuously air news about Falun Gong. We air news [on Falun Gong] because it is newsworthy,” Raymond, a follower of Falun Gong, said.

Raymond said he and some partners founded the radio station with an investment of Rp 1 billion.

He denied that the station, which currently employs 12 staff, was funded by the Falun Gong

Lawyer Soleh said his client had filed against the cancellation of the broadcasting license to civilian court in 2008. They lost and are now appealing the case to the Supreme Court.

“The legal proceeding of this case is ongoing. The Communications and IT Ministry have no reason to tell us to stop broadcasting. This is a form of press freedom suppression. News about persecution of Falun Gong in China is just [as relevant as] Iraq.

“We request the government practice a clear stance against foreign intervention. Reject Chinese pressure to close this radio station, whatever the reason,” he said.

He said they had written proof about Chinese interference in the affair, for fear it might damage relations between the two countries.

The ministry, through the monitoring body, sent a letter to the radio station on Feb. 15.

P. Perangin Angin, who heads the monitoring body, said the letter instructed Radio Era Baru to stop broadcasting on fequency 106.500 MHZ because it clashed with another local radio station, Sing FM.

“Radio Era Baru must stop its broadcasting activities because it uses the unpermitted frequency. This is purely technical,” Perangin Angin said.

Parlindungan Sihombing, chairman of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission in Riau Islands, supported the monitoring board’s decision, saying that the radio station had no valid broadcasting license.

“But they related this technical matter to a political issue. We ask the ministry to sue the radio operator,” he said.

“Contentwise, there is nothing wrong with Radio Era Baru. This is purely technical and the station must obey [the rules],” he added.

With 30 percent of its broadcasts in Mandarin, Radio Era Baru holds Chinese-Indonesians as its
target demographic.

Soehendro Gautama, the chairman of Chinese-Indonesians Association of Riau Island said they applauded the Mandarin-language radio station, but broadcasting activities should follow correct procedures.

“Broadcasting like this is positive because it develops culture. But the administrative management also has to be transparent,” he said.