Jakarta. In the current era of easily accessible information, the Indonesian government needs to keep an eye on the media, the recently appointed head of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) said at a book launch on Thursday.
BIN chief Sutiyoso explained that because everybody can find news everywhere these days, it is important to make sure no false information is being disseminated.
"Media control is necessary so that there is no information bias," said Sutiyoso, a retired general and former governor of Jakarta.
The chief spook was speaking at the launch of a book written by his predecessor at the helm of BIN, Marciano Norman, on the role of state intelligence in Indonesia's democratic consolidation.
Sutiyoso said that in the current situation, one of the main challenges for the intelligence agency is that it remains very difficult to control the flow of information.
Also speaking at the book launch was Tjipta Lesmana, a political communication professor at Pelita Harapan University (UPH), who said BIN should get the authority to arrest people.
"An intelligence agency without the authority to make arrests is like a toothless tiger," Tjipta said. "I think BIN's authority should be expanded."
The observer added that certain safeguards are needed to make sure agents cannot just arrest whoever they want, like in the days of the Suharto regime. But Tjipta also stressed that BIN's operations should be as secretive as possible.
"If it's open, it's not intelligence," he said. "Look at the American CIA, they're all around the world, working underground."
Foreign meddling in Papua
Tjipta reportedly also criticized the decision by the administration of President Joko Widodo to allow foreign journalists to enter the restive Papua region.
"In Tolikara there definitely was foreign [meddling], 1,000 percent," he said, referring to a recent riot in the Papuan district during which dozens of stalls and a small mosque were burned down and a protester was killed after police opened fire. Eleven others were injured.
The incident triggered fears of sectarian violence throughout the country.
"Jokowi's policy to allow foreign media into Papua is wrong, a big mistake," the professor was quoted as saying by RMOL, a local news portal.
"Foreign intelligence agents can enter with press IDs. Seriously, who are his advisers?"