What Dampen the Indonesian Journalists' Freedom and Safety in the Post-Soeharto New Order?

What Dampen the Indonesian Journalists' Freedom and Safety in the Post-Soeharto New Order?

Gilang Desti Parahita, Nyarwi Ahmad
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1298-2.ch006
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This study investigates factors that dampens the Indonesian journalists' freedom and safety in the Post-Soeharto's New Order. To address this research objective, relevant journal articles have been scrutinized. And the in-depth interview data have been derived from the interviews of a former member of the Indonesian Press Council and four journalists who served four prominent Indonesian mainstream media including TEMPO, the Jakarta Post, Metro TV and CNN Indonesia. These data have been analysed using the qualitative and thematic analysis.
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Indonesia is one of Asian democratic countries, which is ruled under the presidential government system (Ahmad, 2017). Being widely knowledge as a Southeast Asian nation dominated by Moslem population, Indonesia has successfully established the democratic, political and the media systems in wake of the downfall of Soeharto’s authoritarian regime (1966-1998). During Soeharto’s authoritarianism regime however, coercion, revenue extraction and elite patronage, as well as citizen’s dependence on state’s provision of economic welfare kept the regime in triumph until its end in 1998 (Liddle, 1996; Mietzner, 2017). The establishment of this regime began with human rights violation and more abuses and culture of impunity were formed during its administration, at some points, human rights violation and impunity culture remain viable in Reformasi (Sulistiyanto, 2007; Pohlman, 2013; McGregor, 2017)1. Since this regime ruled this country, media and the press had been exploited as the ideological state apparatus through several controlling mechanisms. These include authoritarian laws, which masked with mandating the press to be the guardian of Pancasila and 1945 Constitution, political propaganda through TVRI and RRI (both were state-owned broadcast channels), controlling and revoking the press licence, developing the state censorship and intimidation to journalists either (Gazali, 2002; Hill, 2007).

Regardless of the aforementioned conditions, some transformations were taking place in between the late of 1980 and early 1990’s. Privatization media policy, introduced by this regime, allowed the Indonesian press to gradually gaining its authority. Enactment of this policy allowed the private broadcasting media industries to be owned by Soeharto. Soon after this policy was being implemented, Armed Forces Information Centre gradually lost its power to fully intervene the content production processes organized by Indonesian newspapers (Hill 2007). Along with development, early penetration of the Internet also evolved since the 1990’s. However, whilst the Internet penetration provided a mean for democratic activists and journalists to consolidate their movements, ban on news media remained occurring in 1994 and self-censorship and fear amongst the journalists kept persisting (Hill, 2007; Tapsell, 2012). At that time, the Indonesian journalists were allowed to exercise the ‘freedom of the press’ as long as the criticisms they made did not relate with political succession and were not directed overtly to Soeharto and his cronies (Menayang, Nugroho, Listiorini, 2002).

In May 1998, Soeharto regime collapsed dramatically. Soon after the downfall of his regime, subsequent developments took place. One of the Indonesian state propaganda institutions, Department of Enlightment (Department Penerangan), was abolished. A democratic press law, No.40/1999, was constituted by members of the Indonesian House of Representative (MPs). As imposed by Press Law, the press institution was legally formed, but license was no longer needed by such institution. Based on Press Law, the government officials were prohibited to do censorship and press banning. They instead, were supposed to establish the media freedom and protect journalists and their activities.

In a little while, after the Press Law was enacted, the number of news’ products drastically rose. As the Decision of President Bill (Keppres) No. 96/M/2000 was released, newly Press Council with nine members had formed. Press Council was constituted as a fully independent commission with its main function to protect the freedom of the press; (Dewan Pers, 2019, p. 5). Enactment of such Press Law also allowed Indonesian journalists, as well as the citizens in general, to freely develop associations and organizations. Such condition resulted in the Alliance of Independent Journalist (AJI/ Aliansi Jurnalis Independen), which once was a clandestine journalist association openly growing and expanding. This was emerging along with transformation of the Indonesian Journalists’ Association (PWI/Persatuan Wartawan Indonesia), which previously occupied with the interest of such New Order regime (Romano, 2003; Hill, 2007).

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