INDONESIA: Police regret media coverings on sermon monitoring

Police chief denies issuing orders for the surveillance and urges the media to cease their coverage of the issue

The Jakarta Post
Monday, August 24, 2009

By Dicky Christanto

National Police Chief General Bambang Hendarso Danuri said Monday the recent media coverage of the police's decision to monitor sermons given in mosques was regrettable, saying such order had never been given.

"I never issued any order to monitor sermons in mosques, because that would extend beyond our authority," he said at a press conference.

"Such monitoring is clearly within the jurisdiction of the Religious Affairs Ministry. We are ready to provide assistance whenever needed."

He added he hoped the media would cease reporting on the matter, to "avoid further unnecessary damage."

"Of course we don't want a third party to benefit from this delicate situation and then try to make things worse," Bambang said.

Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni, also in attendance at the press conference, said he was among those strongly in opposition to any police move to monitor sermons.

"Monitoring sermons is the ministry's right," he said.

"Should we find any sermon that incites violence, we will report it to the police to take further action."

However, when asked whether the ministry already had an internal monitoring system in place to prevent clerics delivering contentious messages, Basyuni could not provide a clear answer.

"Well, the internal controls should be embedded in their personality," he said.

Last week, National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Nanan Soekarna said the police had decided to monitor sermons given in mosques, to prevent hard-line teachings.

"We're not doing it because we don't like the sermons, but because someone has to make sure the sermons don't spread the wrong message," Nanan said at the time.

He added the police would take firm action against clerics using their sermons to spread hatred instead of religious teachings, punishable with a one-year prison sentence.