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Indonesia slumps in press-freedom index

Indonesia | Press Freedom

For example, Erwin Arnada, former chief editor of Indonesia's Playboy magazine was jailed mostly because of his magazine's name. This magazine didn't carry any pornographic content, and it's very different from the American magazine in principal. Fortunately, the Supreme Court found him not guilty and freed him on 24 June, 2011, after he spent a few months in jail.

Consolidation of Democracy

In my view, the decline of Indonesia's press-freedom ranking is in keeping with the declining quality of Indonesia's democracy.  Our politicians and government have failed to consolidate our democracy. They can not implement their policies in accordance with our constitution and laws. 

As a result, human-rights violations mushroomed in parts of Indonesia, and some of the violations took place in full view of police or government officials. For example, persecutions of religious minorities, especially Christians and Ahmadiyya, is on the rise. Protests and demonstrations have become a popular way to express aspirations and to challenge the government at many levels of administration. These cases indicate that our democracy is now on a dangerous path.

Corruption is now a permanent and widely distributed feature of public life. In most elections (local or national), money is the most important issue.  Money is the language of politics. We know that, in an ideal democracy, people should get full access to information about candidates or political parties, but in Indonesia that access is blocked by money.  So, it is not surprising when the winners of local elections turn out to be incompetent or corrupt leaders.  They are the product of a feeble democracy.

The press is surrounded, and is, at times, part of the problem.  And it is worsened by the lack of professionalism.  Indonesia's Alliance of Independent Journalists (Aliansi Jurnalis Independen, or AJI) indicates there are problems with understanding the code of ethics and weak technical skills among journalists. AJI also found problems with balanced reporting, the mixing of facts and opinion, ignoring the presumption-of-innocence principle, and a lack of accuracy.

Capacity Building

Muhamad Nur Sardono, director of Jawa Pos Group, the country's largest newspaper group controlling 165 newspapers, said it's becoming more difficult to recruit fresh graduates to become journalists. 

“We open job vacation ads in our newspaper for reporter, and the response is usually very low. Only a few people applied,” he said.

He points to the increased number of “fake journalists” as one reason. These fake journalists usually only blackmail people for money.

“They tarnish our profession, so as a result people do not see journalism as a noble profession anymore,” Sardono said.

Another challenge is the low salaries of journalists, which are not competitive or attractive. A friend, and a veteran journalist who has worked for more than 25 years in a news agency, told me that her nephew earns as much as she does -- and he has only three years of experience as marketing staff in a retail company,

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