Indonesians Protest Closure of Sound of Hope Radio Affiliate
After having been deprived for two weeks of what they referred to as the radio station "that has accompanied them for six years," fans of the Indonesian Radio Erabaru took to the streets on Sept. 26.
The protesters gathered outside the headquarters of Sing FM, the radio station that took over Radio Erabaru’s 106.5 FM frequency immediately after a government raid on Sept. 13 had shut down the station. They urged Indonesian authorities to stop bowing down to the Chinese regime.
Radio Erabaru is an affiliate of the Sound of Hope radio network, which has earned the enmity of the Chinese Communist Party by offering independent shortwave radio broadcasts into mainland China, all of whose media is controlled by the CCP. Radio Erabaru regularly reported on human rights abuses in China, in both Indonesian and Chinese language broadcasts.
“Obtaining news and information that is truthful and reliable is the right of every Indonesian citizen under the protection of the Indonesian Constitution,” said protest organizer Joddy Zhang in a speech. “Since Radio Erabaru began broadcasting in 2005, we have been getting our news on the economy, politics, culture, and human rights violations in various parts of the world from Radio Erabaru.”
“I don’t understand how this could happen,” said another protester. “Why did our government give into the wishes of the Chinese Communist Party, which has long wanted to interfere with Radio Erabaru’s broadcasts?”
In addition to speeches, banners, and placards calling for the restoration of the radio station, the protesters put on a re-enactment of the raid that closed the station, with those acting as authorities painting their faces white and dressing all in black and those acting as the radio station’s staff members painting bloody tears dripping down their cheeks.
The skit, which caught the eye of passersby, journalists, and even some police officers, showed the scene that brought an end to the station, with Indonesian authorities walking off with key broadcasting equipment from the station’s transmission room and the station’s staff members lying on the road trying to prevent the authorities’ vehicles from driving away.
The closure of the radio station happened during a normal broadcasting day, when about 30 Indonesian officials broke into the station despite failing to give any warrant authorizing the seizure to the station’s personnel.
The station’s staff believe the shutdown was inspired by a 2007 letter the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta sent to several Indonesian government departments and a visit embassy officials paid to the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission, which called for the termination of the radio’s broadcasts, lest China-Indonesia relations be affected.
Subsequently, Indonesian authorities in 2008 denied the station’s license, reassigned its frequency, and began a process of other bureaucratic restrictions—actions the radio station appealed in the Supreme Court, cases that are still in court today.
The station contends that with the actions against them on appeal, they were broadcasting legally. The officials who shut Radio Erabaru down claimed its broadcasting was disrupting the air traffic in the nearby city-state of Singapore. Yet Sing FM was then allowed to begin broadcasting on Radio Erabaru’s former frequency.
“You have to prove that [the air traffic interference] really happened,” the station’s associate manager Raymond Tan said earlier this month. “It’s not just who said, who complained. We have been broadcasting for so many years that there’s no such thing happened. If there’s an air traffic disruption, why is Sing FM broadcasting on 106.5?”
Similarly unconvinced, the protesters said in a statement that they “firmly rejected” the intervention from the Chinese regime, urged that the Indonesian government protect their rights as Indonesian citizens in their right to obtain information from Radio Erabaru, and demanded authorities return the broadcasting equipment that it had confiscated, and called on the authorities to allow Radio Erabaru back on air on its former frequency.
The radio station’s closure has been condemned by Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House, with both linking the Indonesian government’s actions to pressure from the Chinese regime.
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