The Indonesian government, in a move to control press coverage of events here, has asked foreign news agencies not to distribute stories originating in Indonesia inside the country.
The Jakarta offices of the two U.S. wire services, The Associated Press and United Press International; the British news agency Reuter and Agence France-Presse received letters yesterday requesting that they "restrict the marketing and distribution of news originating from Indonesia to countries outside Indonesia only."
The new government directive does not bar distribution here of stories from elsewhere involving Indonesia nor does it affect the flow of news from Indonesia to the outside, but the government made clear its sensitivity to any unfavorable coverage of Indonesia.
In a letter to the foreign news agencies, August Marpaung, general manager of Antara, the official Indonesian news agency, said:
"It is common knowledge that the media of the Third World is not happy with the imbalance in the news flow . . . to the detriment of the developing nations. It is quite natural for the Third World to prefer their affairs to be reported through their own eyes by the party most involved and, therefore, by themselves, as the most informed about their own affairs."
While the step announced yesterday is common in many Third World countries, news agencies here said it is the first such restriction among the noncommunist Southeast Asian countries.
A chief effect of the new restriction will be to reduce coverage in the local papers of such politically sensitive stories as the recent criticism of President Suharto by 50 prominent Indonesians and local developments in a court battle in Singapore that has spawned charges of widespread corruption within Suharto's family and government.
Much of the reporting about those affairs has been done by the foreign news agencies since security officials requested Indonesian newspapers, which need government permits to publish, to limit their coverage of them.
Indonesian censors and newspaper distributors have recently been blacking out stories about corruption and dissidence here appearing in foreign newspapers and magazines imported into the country.