Monday, May 21, 2007

Indonesia monitors Falungong radio station

Indonesia’s broadcasting watchdog is investigating a radio station run by the Falungong movement after receiving a complaint from the Chinese embassy, an official said today. The Indonesian Broadcast Commission said the embassy complained that the private radio station, run by members of the spiritual movement, has been airing criticism of Beijing. It prompted the watchdog to monitor broadcasts from the station on Batam island, south of Singapore, for about four days, the official said.

“We received instructions from Commission headquarters about one-and-a-half weeks ago to closely monitor the broadcast of Radio Era Baru (New Era Radio) and we have been doing that since Friday last week,” said Aulia Indriyati of the Batam office of the Commission. Falungong is banned in mainland China and rights groups have accused Beijing of persecuting its members. Indriyati said she had been informed about the complaint from the Commission’s headquarters in Jakarta.

It is unclear what Commission officials will do with any information obtained from the broadcasts, or whether the station has breached any laws. But the embassy’s complaint could place pressure on the Commission, which is considering whether to grant the station a permanent broadcast licence. It is permitted to operate while officials in Jakarta assess its application, with a final decision still pending, Indriyati said. ”At the current stage, we have only issued a recommendation on feasibility (for broadcasting) to the (Commission) headquarters,” she said.

Radio Era Baru and the Chinese embassy could not immediately be reached for comment. However station director Husni Rampale has told Tempo weekly that it aims to promote the Falungong movement and that it reports in Mandarin on the persecution of its members in China. The broadcast can be picked up in nearby Singapore, the magazine said. “This oppression is always reported by the Sound of Hope,” Rampale said, referring to the station’s motto.
(Source: AFP/R Netherlands Media Network Weblog)