'Extremist' Batam radio station is cleared after review

Radio Hang came under the scrutiny of the Singapore authorities after two of its avid listeners, Singaporeans Rosli Hamzah and Mohamed Omar Mahadi, were detained under the Internal Security Act in August last year.
Radio Hang came under the scrutiny of the Singapore authorities after two of its avid listeners, Singaporeans Rosli Hamzah and Mohamed Omar Mahadi, were detained under the Internal Security Act in August last year.ST FILE PHOTO

Radio Hang no longer promotes violent Islam, says Indonesian broadcasting body

A radio station in Batam accused of airing radical Islamic teachings has been cleared by the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI).

A review by the regional unit of the KPI found that Radio Hang no longer promotes "violent Islam" in its broadcast, which regularly includes dakwahs, or religious teachings.

"The content of their broadcast has changed substantially, it is more open now," said Mr Azwardi Anas, who chairs the Riau Islands unit of the commission, yesterday.

Radio Hang came under the scrutiny of the Singapore authorities after two of its avid listeners, Singaporeans Rosli Hamzah and Mohamed Omar Mahadi, were detained under the Internal Security Act in August last year.

Rosli and Omar, then aged 50 and 33 respectively, were planning to travel to the Middle East to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Rosli, who worked at a car wash, began listening to Radio Hang in 2009, while Omar, a waste truck driver, started tuning in to the station a year later.

Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) described Radio Hang as "a religious station which sometimes features speakers who preach extreme views", and the authorities said they were looking at options to block its broadcast.

TIGHTER CONTROLS

Efforts in countering the spread of radicalism have been brought to a new level by the current leadership in Indonesia.

ANALYST JASMINDER SINGH, of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, on the tightening of the media landscape to prevent the spread of extremist ideas.

The latest development in Indonesia comes just days after Singapore disclosed it had barred two foreign Islamic preachers from entering the country because their hardline and divisive teachings ran counter to the country's multicultural and multi-religious values.

Zimbabwean Ismail Menk is known to preach "segregationist and divisive teachings", while the other preacher, Malaysian Haslin Baharim, has described non-Muslims as "deviant".

The previous line-up of preachers at Radio Hang was said to subscribe to similar extreme views. The preachers attracted many followers, which led to fears that many listeners would, over time, become receptive to militant groups such as ISIS.

Community leaders in Singapore have warned that the cases of Rosli and Omar highlighted the danger of exclusivist teachings, such as those aired by the Batam station, in priming individuals for ISIS propaganda.

They noted that while such teachings may not directly instigate violence, they encourage believers to stay apart from non-Muslims as well as Muslims who do not share similar views.

Mr Azwardi assured that the station was put through an evaluation process and found to "consistently oppose acts of terrorism through its broadcasts and off-air activities".

"So there is no longer a problem of ISIS, as accused by Singapore," he said. "The proof is in our government issuing (Radio Hang) a permit... for the next five years."

While the vetting process by the KPI may not be foolproof, and radical rhetoric may still slip through, one security analyst believed the Radio Hang probe was a solid step towards tightening the media landscape to prevent the spread of extremist ideas.

"Efforts in countering the spread of radicalism have been brought to a new level by the current leadership in Indonesia," said senior analyst Jasminder Singh of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.

"With Chief Security Minister Wiranto and Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu at the helm, it comes as no surprise that broadcasters such as Radio Hang are now required to adhere to tighter controls in terms of what they air.

"If they dare venture again in airing content that perpetuates exclusivist or extremist teachings, they risk being shut down."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2017, with the headline ''Extremist' Batam radio station is cleared after review'. Print Edition | Subscribe