5 October 1998


Indonesian weekly reopens

Incident details

ban lifted

(ISAI/IFEX) - Further to the reopening of "Tempo" magazine, banned since
1994, ISAI has forwarded the following Agence-France Press news release:

**For background, see IFEX alerts of 14 June 1996, 27 and 21 June and 5 May
JAKARTA, Indonesia (October 4, 1998 08:14 a.m. EDT) - Staff at Tempo,
Indonesia's leading weekly news magazine when it was banned by former
president Suharto's administration in 1994, announced Sunday the publication
would return to the newsstands this week.

"Our trick to get readers ... we aim to become some sort of clearing house
for news," Tempo deputy chief editor Bambang Harymurti told a press
conference announcing the relaunching of the magazine.

Tempo would hit the newsstands on Tuesday.

Harymurti said that since the new era of press freedom enjoyed by the nation
since the fall of Suharto on May 21, the flood of news and information
supplied by the media, including through the Internet, had left a lot of
people confused.

"Which news is true? We will try to explain it (to readers)," Harymurti
said, adding that the new Tempo will have "depth and comprehensiveness."

Tempo had a circulation of some 180,000 copies when the Suharto government
closed it down on June 21, 1994, citing vague "substantive" editorial

Tempo's chief editor Gunawan Mohamad said that until now, the precise reason
for the 1994 ban remained unknown, but he speculated that the final blow
might have been a report critical of the purchase by the government of 39
old East German navy vessels.

The ships were ordered by Suharto's handpicked successor, President B.J.
Habibie, whose government has allowed Tempo to reopen.

Two other major weekly publications were also closed down at the same time
as Tempo but with the government citing "administrative" reasons.

Tempo general manager Fikri Jufri, a former deputy chief editor of Tempo,
said that some 130,000 copies will be printed for its first edition.

Gunawan said he was not worried about the possibility that the burst of
press freedom currently enjoyed by the country may be short-lived.

"We do not care whether the government is committed to (press) freedom, we
have to make the government commit itself to (press) freedom," Mohamad said.

Jufri said the magazine's path to republishing had so far been smooth and
that feedback from the government and the public had been encouraging.

Most of the editorial staff will be old faces who had been active in the
magazine before the ban.

Gunawan said that the new Tempo will still "be like the old magazine" but
with an emphasis on sharp analytical pieces and on investigative reporting.

"The biggest hindrance so far is our own ambition to make it the best,"
Harymurti said. Gunawan said the closure of the magazine in 1994 had turned
it into some kind of legend and that "we will have to compete with our own

A mock copy of the new magazine distributed at the press conference showed
little noticeable difference from the old version in form and content,
except for the cover layout.

But the cover set the tone.

It depicted a blown-up drawing of a U.S. one dollar bill, but with the face
of Suharto under the white wig instead of George Washington.

The words, "Why Suharto is making a challenge", were splashed in yellow
letters, referring to the veteran leader's challenge thrown to his
detractors, to prove that he has amassed a fortune during his 32-year tenure
as president.

"There is no intention of revenge," Gunawan said.

An investment of up to six billion rupiah (slightly more than half a million
dollars) was needed to put the magazine back on track, Jufri said, adding
that the stakes in the magazine were owned by three foundations and one

The foundation grouping the alumni of the old Tempo and the Jaya Raya
foundation which owned shares in the old Tempo each held a 30 percent stake.

The rest was split between a foundation gathering the current employees of
the magazine and a company, PT Grafiti Press, also a stakeholder in the old

By BHIMANTO SUWASTOYO, Agence-France Press


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