reporting of the owner of an Indonesian television station to the police for allowing a broadcast that suggested that Mount Merapi, an Indonesian volcano on the island of Java, was going to erupt with even more intensity an attack on free speech and the freedom of the press?
The Indonesian Broadcasting Commission has a brief to ensure that Indonesian broadcasters maintain some standards. However, it is questionable as to whether its brief includes reporting broadcasters to the police for the content of a show that suggests that an eruption of an active volcano is likely to be more intense than it has been previously. Using that logic any TV or radio broadcaster that reports a tsunami warning where the tsunami does not eventuate should also be reported to the police for causing unnecessary panic and telling lies, shouldn't they?
Harry Tanoesoedibjo is the owner of Media Nusantara Citra (MNC) which includes in its stable of interests RCTI, Tanoesoedibjo also owns Global TV and MNC TV along with a wide range of other print and broadcast media interests.
The KPI has determined that Tanoesoedibjo has breached a number of articles of the Broadcasting Law, including articles 36. Article 36 sees Tanoesoedibjo liable for a jail term up to five years and a IDR 10 billion fine for spreading misinformation (lies). In addition, the KPI is relying on Article 54 which in essence allows them to pursue the owner of a recalcitrant broadcaster.
The gist of the crime is that a program on RCTI, Silet, reported on 7 November 2010 that Mount Merapi was gearing up for an even larger eruption than those that it had recently experienced. The eruption according to the Silet report was not expected to happen until the following week. This would reasonably be of concern to people living in and around Mount Merapi as the Silet report also suggested that the magnitude of the eruption was likely to be the end of the closest major city to Merapi, Yogyakarta.
The Silet report drew the ire of the KPI and the KPI decided to ban RCTI from broadcasting the program until the Merapi status had been downgraded. However, RCTI decided that it would repackage and re-brand the show as "Intens" and front it with a new presenter. It goes without saying that this move annoyed the KPI and this is the reason that the KPI has acted as it has, like a petulant little child who got picked last for the playground soccer game at lunchtime.
What is silly about the reporting of Tanoesoedibjo to the police is that only Tanoesoedibjo has been reported. All TV and radio broadcasts at that time were presenting content of a very similar nature. Why has Tanoesoedibjo been singled out and targeted and the other have not? Is it personal or political or related to a business dispute?
Or is this a simple case of the KPI overreacting and over-reaching with respect to its brief?
This case seemingly is destined to set a poor precedent going forward for broadcast freedom and predicting the ferocity or lack thereof in relation to unfolding natural disasters.