Govt Shuts Down Falun Gong Radio Station

JAKARTA

THE GOVERNMENT closed a radio station linked to the Falun Gong spiritual movement on Wednesday, but denied it was caving in to Chinese pressure.

Radio Erabaru (New Era Radio) had broadcast news and entertainment in Mandarin and Indonesian since 2005 from Batam island, near Singapore, which has a large ethnic-Chinese population.

Falun Gong is banned in China and rights groups have accused Beijing of persecuting its members.

The government had refused to renew the station’s broadcasting licence since 2007 and police seized its transmitter on Wednesday, director Raymond Tan said, pointing the finger at China.

“Officials from the police and the radio frequency monitoring body came here today around 11am and seized our transmitter because we refused to stop broadcasting,” Tan said.

“We firmly oppose this Chinese intervention, which is against freedom of expression in Indonesia.”

He said the communist government in Beijing could not tolerate the station’s reports about human rights abuses in China, including those against Falun Gong followers.

The International Federation of Journalists and Reporters without Borders (RSF) have defended Radio Erabaru and raised concerns about free speech and media independence in Indonesia.

“Media freedom is a constitutional right in Indonesia so no foreign government should have the right to influence official decisions on such an important subject,” RSF said in a statement last week.

Indonesian officials have acknowledged that the Chinese embassy had complained about the station but they denied it had anything to do with the closure.

“It’s related to our limited radio frequency. We’ve never received any request from the Chinese embassy to do this,” communications and information technology ministry spokesman Gatot Dewabroto said.

The closure came while a decision from the Supreme Court is still pending over the station’s challenge to the effective withdrawal of its licence.

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