No ban if reports accurate, says Jakarta’s new information minister
INDONESIA’S newly-appointed Information Minister Raden Hartono has assured local journalists that he will not ban their publications provided the reports they carried were factually accurate.
Speaking to reporters after being named for the post in a surprise Cabinet reshuffle on Friday, the 55-year-old retiring army chief said he would try not to revoke the government-issued permits of local publications.
“I hope there will be no more banning of Indonesian publications,” news reports yesterday quoted him.
Gen Hartono, who replaces Mr Harmoko this Wednesday, reminded journalists to always check their information.
“There are things that must be checked and re-checked as long as the information remains unclear,” he said.
He added that he would continue to enforce current press laws and supporting regulations.
“If any newspaper publishing permit is revoked, the measure will be based on existing rules.”
Commenting on his new post, he said he was “surprised” and “honoured” at being appointed.
He admitted that he knew little about his new job but vowed to do his best.
Political observers said Gen Hartono’s comments were aimed at assuring local journalists that the arrival of a military general as Information Minister would not impede press freedom seriously.
Said Dr Mulya Lubis, a member of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation:
“There will be legitimate concern by the press here when a four-star general takes over the information portfolio.
“The question being asked now is whether he will narrow the corridors of press freedom in Indonesia.
Besides trying to win the confidence of journalists here, Hartono is also sending a signal that he might be prepared to relax the grip.”
Others said his comments reflected growing concerns within the government of its long-running battles with local publications.
Noted political observer, Dr Hariman Siregar: “There is a strong likelihood that Hartono will go slow on the press because of the government’s past experience, particularly with Tempo.”
The Indonesian weekly Tempo was banned in June 1994, together with two other local publications, Editor and DeTik.
But the ministerial decree banning them was overruled by the Jakarta State Administrative High Court in 1995, which proved an embarrassment to the government.
The Supreme Court then overturned the High Court decision last year after an appeal by Mr Harmoko.
Meanwhile, local journalists welcomed Gen Hartono’s appointment.
The Jakarta Post yesterday quoted Mr Bambang Harymurti, executive editor of the Media Indonesia daily and former Tempo reporter, him as saying that Gen Hartono’s background as army commander, Abri’s socio-political chief and National Defence Institute Governor would help the media improve its ties with the Information Ministry.
“In the military, he is the most prepared and intelligent man who communicates well with civilians.”