Subject: Jakarta Foreign Correspondents on Murdoch Ban

see also statements by Committee to Protect Journalists [], Reporters Sans Frontières

Jakarta Foreign Correspondent's Club 17 March 2002

Statement by the Jakarta Foreign Correspondent's Club:

The Jakarta Foreign Correspondent's Club views the Foreign Ministry refusal to renew the journalist visa and press accreditation of Lindsay Murdoch, a distinguished Australian journalist, as a serious blow to press freedom in Indonesia. It contradicts the stated policy of President Megawati Sukarnoputri. On November 1 last year she said in an address to the People's Consultative Assembly that Indonesia's national media was the 'freest in Asia': 'The government no longer imposes any strings or even restrictions upon the society to express its opinion.'

In view of this policy, the JFCC requests the following of the Indonesian Government:

First, approve a new application from Mr Murdoch to serve out the remainder of his posting in Indonesia.

Second, provide a clear and public explanation of the reasons for the refusal to renew Mr Murdoch's journalist visa. Without such an explanation all members of the foreign press will justifiably feel vulnerable to similar arbitrary censure.

Third, explain who made the decision and the process by which the decision was made. Government officials have made reference to the existence of a 'inter-departmental committee'. Is this a new body set up to review and control the foreign press following the abolition of the directorate of foreign journalistic affairs in the Department of Information?

The JFCC acknowledges that members of the foreign press are guests in Indonesia and should respect the laws and customs of this country. We request no more than the same freedoms given to ordinary citizens.

However, the decision to prevent Mr Murdoch from reporting in Indonesia, and the lack of transparency in that decision, is a significant reversal of the great strides made in creating a free press since the fall of president Suharto in 1998. It will be of concern to all people who hope to consolidate the development of a free and open society.

We request the support of our colleagues in the domestic press, and others in Indonesia who are concerned about the maintenance of basic freedoms, to ensure this decision is overturned and does not become the precursor to new pattern of press restrictions.

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