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Indonesia the poster child of what new media can do?

This should help to dispel the misguided notion that the neighbor up north is the poster child of the “transformative powers” of New Media.

US Under Secretary Maria Otero met with some bloggers last  Wednesday and here sizes up the contribution that Indonesian bloggers and onliners provide to the country and the region.

Hmmm. Wonder if she’d be keen to attend Pesta Blogger 2010?

(via Multibrand)

clipped from www.ethiopianreview.com

In Indonesia, Bloggers Show How Civil Society Can Promote Good Governance

US Department of State | May 21st, 2010 at 5:10 pm

About the Author: Maria Otero serves as Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs.

Today, Indonesia is the world’s third-largest democracy, and its free media environment plays an important role in the country’s steady democratic development. In fact, the NGO Freedom House rated Indonesia as the most free media environment in all of Southeast Asia. Over the last decade, Internet penetration has surged, and half of Indonesia’s Internet users are on Facebook and Twitter. There are over one million bloggers in the country.

On Wednesday, I met with leading bloggers and media developers in Jakarta. The lively discussion revealed the dynamic role of Internet activism in Indonesia. Even though fewer than 15 percent of Indonesians regularly access the Internet, the increasing number of people who engage online are making a difference in the way Indonesian society communicates about topics ranging from the environment and human rights to political issues, culture, fashion, and academic material.

The government, online businesses, and consumers all share a responsibility for protecting freedom of expression and freedom of information on the Internet. As co-chair of the NetFreedom Taskforce with Under Secretary for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats, I was pleased to learn about how Indonesia’s bloggers use the online space to express their views and advocate for change in their country through a conducive internet environment. It was helpful to listen to their views and look for more ways to engage together.

Indonesian citizens’ active involvement in social media demonstrates how civil society can promote good governance and protect freedom of expression. Of course, as in any country, we must be mindful of threats to such freedoms. The bloggers at the meeting described the Indonesian social media response to a draft law on multimedia content that would form a government committee with the potential to censor online content. The bloggers voiced their objection to the draft law, citing that it would limit freedom of expression online. Fortunately, in response to online protests, President Yudhoyono put a hold on the law. The social media activism and response by the President signify the importance of partnership between government and society when securing the freedom of expression on the Internet. I am encouraged by the lively internet activism in Indonesia, and am grateful to the bloggers and government officials who are committed to protecting freedom of speech.

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Indonesia, the land of the free(dom) of information

Unspun was invited together with a few other bloggers and Danny Oei from Kaskus.us to a lunch with visiting US Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero  yesterday and the subject of online information flows and freedom of expression naturally cropped up.

One of the interesting points that emerged during the course of the conversation was how Indonesian journalists were using the content in social media as sources of ideas,tips and information for their news articles in the mainstream media. So we have the interesting situation in which the onliners are actually having to drive and help set the news, social and political agenda of the nation.

A point explained to Otero was also that the mainstream media was coalescing around business groups that more often than not inevitably linked to political parties or factions. Online media, in helping to drive the news agenda, helps to disperse some of the concentration of power and its particular agenda.

But unknown to us, and as we were speaking, the Alliance of Journalists was planning its own version of Wikileaks to prevent censorship from their own bosses (see excerpt below). This is yet another example of how the internet is helping to democratize the flow of information and this is something that perhaps should be adopted by other countries in the region, if it can be implemented properly and the anonymity of the contributors can be protected.

Otero correctly observed that much of the positive things that Indonesian onliners and bloggers have been able to achieve so far is the result of the freedom of expression that Indonesia enjoys at the moment.

That may be true said a blogger and while there is a need to be vigilant, attempts at restricting the free flow of information is less likely to come from political forces rather than religious ones. Observed one prominent blogger: Religious issues, such as the Draw Muhamed’s Face Facebook page, give the more extreme elements of Indonesian society an excuse to call for tighter control on the freedom of information and expression.

Indonesian Journalists Plan Local ‘WikiLeaks’ to Escape Big Media Censorship

Seeking a media outlet free of the chains of corporate ownership, a group of journalists is planning to develop a Web site that will carry stories conventional news organizations dare not touch.

Wahyu Dhyatmika, chairman of the Jakarta chapter of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), said he hoped the site could provide an alternative outlet for journalists to post sensitive documents or evidence deemed too “dangerous” to be published in their own media.

“In short, it would be similar to WikiLeaks,” he told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday, referring to the Sweden-based organization that publishes sensitive material and protects the anonymity of its sources. “We hope that in the future, all Indonesian journalists can engage and really benefit from this Web site and that will eventually strengthen our independent journalism.”

The Web site, which AJI Jakarta plans to launch in early August to coincide with its anniversary, is supported by the group’s chapters in Denpasar, Semarang, Surabaya, Malang and Pekanbaru.

Wahyu and 17 other AJI members recently completed a three-week course at the Radio Netherlands Training Center on how new media can support independent journalism.

He said that although Indonesia’s media had enjoyed 12 years of relative freedom since President Suharto stepped down on May 21, 1998, it did not mean that the threat was gone.

Indonesian Journalists Plan Local ‘WikiLeaks’ to Escape Big Media Censorship – The Jakarta Globe.

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