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Local radio station manager facing possible six-year jail term

(RSF/IFEX) - Gatot Machali, the manager of Radio Era Baru, a radio station based in Batam (in Riau province), appeared before a Jakarta administrative court on 21 March 2011 on a charge of "broadcasting without authorisation and disrupting neighbouring frequencies" under the Telecommunications Law.

He could be sentenced to six years in jail if found guilty. The court has not yet issued a verdict.

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its support for the station and its manager and urges the Indonesian government not to bow to the pressure that is reportedly being applied by Chinese authorities. The severity of the sentence Machali is facing suggests an attempt by the justice system to intimidate and persecute him.

This local station often uses its broadcasts in Mandarin to denounce abuses by the Chinese government, notably against the Falun Gong religious movement, Uighurs and Tibetans. As Indonesia has around 10 million inhabitants of Chinese descent, Radio Era Baru's criticism poses a significant challenge to Beijing's propaganda.

The government has repeatedly prosecuted the station since its launch in 2005 but, as this failed, it has turned its sights on its manager.

Reporters Without Borders supported Radio Era Baru in March 2010 when it was last being harassed by the authorities. The organisation backed its application to the Indonesia Broadcasting Commission (KPI) for a broadcasting licence, which was finally granted after three years of litigation.

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    Shortly before the order to halt broadcasts, the Era Baru radio station began legal action to protest the Radio Frequency Monitoring Agency's refusal to issue it a licence.

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