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Indonesia Closes 3 Newsmagazines for Violating Press Restrictions

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Indonesia, in one of the most repressive steps toward its press in years, has closed its three leading newsmagazines after the government said they overstepped official restrictions on the news media.

The Information Department, which must license all publications in the sprawling island nation, announced that it has revoked the permit for Tempo, the country’s biggest news weekly; DeTik, a rapidly expanding tabloid, and Editor, another newsmagazine.

Information Director General Subrata, who in the Javan tradition uses only one name, said Tempo lost its license because of its news content, while the other two weeklies were banned for “administrative” reasons for failing to operate within the terms of their licenses.

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The closures, announced Tuesday, come after a period of relative openness in Indonesian media, during which newspapers and magazines began subtly to criticize government actions while refraining from any direct criticism of President Suharto.

It was unclear what precipitated the crackdown. But Indonesia is undergoing labor and social unrest, which climaxed in May in riots in the Sumatran city of Medan.

With a population of 180 million spread over more than 13,600 islands, Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country and the most populous country in Southeast Asia.

In recent years, Indonesia has come under severe international criticism for human rights abuses, especially in the former Portuguese territory of East Timor, where government troops opened fire on a crowd in November, 1991, killing between 100 and 180 people.

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