TVRI is widely criticised for airing footage of a Hizbut Tahrir leader rejecting democracy, religious freedom and nationalism.
Indonesia’s public broadcaster was forced to apologise last month after it aired hardline views of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) rejecting Pancasila and democracy, causing a public outcry.
On June 6th, Television of the Republic of Indonesia (TVRI) aired edited, one-hour footage of an HTI congress that took place four days earlier in Jakarta, with the theme “Change the World through Khilafah”.
In the broadcast, Farid Wajdi, chairman of the central board of HTI, was seen stating that democracy is a form of kufur (denial of God) because its fundamental principle is liberalism, and that freedom of religion had created a number of cults that should not be protected.
In conclusion, he argued that democracy and nationalism must be left behind and replaced by aKhilafah Islamiyah system (Caliphate).
The programme drew broad outrage, from religious leaders, activists and common people.
“How come TVRI aired a hardline Islamic group meeting, which clearly rejected Pancasila and democracy?” Imdadun Rahmat, deputy secretary general of the moderate Islamic organisation Nahdlatul Ulama, told Khabar Southeast Asia.
“TVRI has bigger obligations than a private broadcasting company. It has an obligation to promote the values of Pancasila and promote the Indonesian motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (unity in diversity),” he said.
Going further, Imdadun argued that TVRI should raise awareness in civil society about the dangers of transnational radical organisations such as HTI – especially when those organisations openly reject Pancasila democracy.
Neutral and independent
Tutik Werdani, a 34 year-old Jakarta resident, agreed.
“TVRI is public television. The public paid for it. But why do they provide a special space to an organisation which rejects Pancasila? This could mislead Indonesian viewers about our national ideology,” she told Khabar.
“TVRI should be neutral and independent. If it wanted to air the HTI congress, it should also present counter-opinions” on topics such as democracy and pluralism, Nurvina Alifa, an advocacy co-ordinator at media watchdog group Remotivi, told Khabar.
An alliance of 14 civil society organisations including the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace and the Moderate Muslim Society issued a statement protesting the broadcast.
“Our protest is not intended to neglect freedom of expression. But this is a protest of people who believe in law enforcement and freedom of expression,” the statement read.
Restricting speech is justified when that restriction leads to greater freedom in society, the group argued.
Consequences for TVRI
In the midst of the fallout, on June 10th, Irwan Hendarmin, TVRI’s director of programmes and news, appeared before the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) to provide clarification.
According to KPI’s official website, Irwan apologised to all parties and Indonesian citizens, on behalf of TVRI, for the mistake. “It is a lesson for us in the near future,” Irwan told the KPI.
On June 21st, KPI issued administrative sanctions requiring TVRI to air a statement five times a day for the next three days.
“TVRI is carrying out the request of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission to ensure that the contents of its broadcasts uphold Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution, and the Broadcasting Law (UU No 32/2002),” the statement read.
“We received many public complaints about the programme from various elements of society,” Commissioner Nina Mutmainnah told Khabar regarding the HTI broadcast.
“It is because the programme showed a number of speeches that obviously rejected Pancasila and the implementation of democracy in Indonesia.”
Of the sanctions, she said, “It is a lesson for TVRI and for other broadcasting companies in Indonesia. They must follow broadcasting regulations and make sure that they do not harm public interests.”