Last month, the Washington Post reported a legal campaign against Indonesia’s Falun Gong-linked Erabaru Radio, which was apparently instigated by the Chinese embassy. The station’s manager has now been sentenced to six months in prison and a 50,000,000 rupee (US$5,800) fine for unlicensed broadcasting, according to Reporters Without Borders. The organisation has written to the Indonesian President and Minister of Law and Human Rights, asking them to intercede. From their letter:
There are many reasons for thinking that Radio Era Baru and its manager were in fact prosecuted for political reasons.
Firstly, the Indonesian authorities have refused to grant the station a licence since 2007. It was forbidden to broadcast by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology’s frequency monitoring centre in Batam (Balai Monitor Frekuensi) on 28 March 2008, although it had complied with all technical requirements, including those specified by the Riau province branch of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPID), which gave the station permission to broadcast at the time of its launch.
Secondly, the problems that Radio Era Baru has been encountering since 2007 seem to be a result of the nature of some of the programmes it broadcasts. It often denounces human rights violations in China, including violations of the rights of Uyghurs, Tibetans and members of the banned religious movement Falun Gong.
According to the station’s president, Raymond Tan, citing the leaked copy of a letter from the Chinese embassy in Indonesia, the prosecution is the result of direct pressure by the Chinese government on the Indonesian authorities with the aim of preventing the station from broadcasting its programmes.
For these reasons, we deplore the harsh sentence imposed on Mr. Machali. It violates Indonesia’s laws and Constitution, which says in articles 28-E-3 and 28-F that each person has the right to freely “express his opinions” and to “spread information via all kinds of channels available.”