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Can someone do a favor for the Indonesian Police and buy them a copy of Dale Carniegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People?
As if they do not have their hands full managing the ill will that is emanating from their bungling of the KPK investigations, the Indonesian Police just had to go out to make enemies on yet another front.
This time it’s the foreign journalists and obviously the police have not heard of the saying that “you never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”
Yesterday, Indonesian police detained and deported two journalists who were covering a project in which Greenpeace was demonstrating against a business concern.
Today the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club responded with an email to its members questioning why the journalists had been detained and deported while apparently doing their jobs.
Typical of journalists, however, the JFCC did not say whether the email was only for members’ consumption or whether they will deliver it in the form of a letter to the authorities. None of the 5Ws – who, what, why, when, where and how. Go figure.
The Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club is deeply concerned about the detention and deportation of two foreign journalists who were reporting on a Greenpeace protest against deforestation in Indonesia.
Raimundo Bultrini, a reporter for the Italian ‘l’Espresso’ weekly and Kumkum Dasgupta, an editor with the ‘Hindustan Times’ of India were forced out of the country on Wednesday.
Free reporting and movement of the media should be protected as a cornerstone of democracy. We strongly protest the apparent violation of press freedom and request immediate clarification from immigration authorities.
These journalists were visiting Sumatra to report on a protest by the international organization Greenpeace when they were held by the police for hours of questioning. They were watching the deforestation caused by several pulp and paper and palm oil companies.
After being interrogated they were told they would be deported for “illegal activities” for allegedly not obtaining local permission to be in the area.
Local immigration officials say the two had obtained journalist visas from national authorities. Neither was on a tourist visa. By obtaining the visas they showed their respect for Indonesian laws and regulations.
We at the JFCC would like to know on what grounds the two journalists were expelled. What exactly were their “illegal activities” and on which law or regulation were the deportations based?
The JFCC Executive Committee
Unspun recently had a very depressing conversation with a senior Indonesian journalist.
The conversation started when Unspun asked the editor of a large newspaper, let’s call him NK, what it would take to get journalists to dig below the surface in a case that has all the elements of a good story – a rich conglomerate tycoon, abuse of power, abuse of the institutions of State, bribery, corruption.
The story, or parts of it, has been in the news because of a well-publicized case involving a top business executive being caught red handed. All indicators, to anyone with even rudimentary powers of inference, point to a tycoon behind everything.
Yet, the media, even the established ones, aren’t interested in covering the story apart from what’s happening in the surface.
“This is insane,” said Unspun. “Here you have, a businessman so powerful and corrupt that he is using the institutions of State to force the business outcome he wants in his dispute with another group. This is the story of how an individual can hijack the state to do his own bidding. Why is no one interested to dig deeper?”
“Well,” said NK. “You have to understand that the papers these days do not have the manpower to do this.
“They are not doing well financially and cannot hire quality reporters. Also there is no one to do the investigation.”
“No one? How can that be?” asked Unspun incredulously.
“No one he said,” a pained expression crossing his face because he felt strongly about journalism and what it can do too. “First off there is not enough people around. Not enough journalists.
“Secondly, there are very few quality journalists who are able to do any type of investigative journalism. Those who used to do it have moved on and there are very few of them left.
“The result is tha the papers have only the resources to chase the issue for the day or the week. Any older issues get left behind and forgotten. Then when the next issue breaks, they divert all their resources to chasing the new issue,” said NK.
“How has this come to pass?” asked Unspun.
NK explained that the deterioration in quality journalism, what there was of it, began when the conglomerates took over the media. These days most of the papers and TV stations are controlled either by the MNC Group, the Jawa Pos Group, the Gramedia Group, the Lippo Group or other businesses.
“They have no interest in quality journalism,” said NK. “All they want is either to make money from their media or to wield influence by controlling the coverage of their media.”
The only hope, he said, lies with the more reputable papers like Tempo and Kompas. But Tempo’s been experiencing flat revenue growth so does not have much money to spend o hiring and training quality reporters. And Kompas has chosen to be extra careful over everything. So we have nothing.
“If someone or some business feels that they have gotten a raw deal by the courts, the police or any other state institutions they are on their own. They shouldn’t expect the Press to play its role as a watchdog of society,” said NK.
“This is sad and ironic,” he added. “Indonesia has all the freedoms that the Press could want but we are not making use of this freedom.”
Unspun was depressed in the drive home.
“The painting has a deep meaning for Catholics as it’s about the holy journey of Jesus and his disciples, but Tempo has disrespected it by replacing the holy persons with the corrupt Soeharto’s family,” Catholic Students Alumni Forum head Hermawi Taslim told The Jakarta Post.
Consider the irony of the statement: An Indonesian Catholic protesting over the mistreatment of a painting by an Italian artist. If history is correct at all the painting has not factual resemblence at all to Christ and his disciples. Christ and Co. were Middle Eastern chaps, swarthy of skin, curly of hair and looks nothing like the Caucasions of Da Vinci’s depiction which would be culturally insensitive if painted today.
Besides so what if Tempo satirized the holy persons? Would this make them any less holy? Would God, if she exists, give a toss? Does this incident speak more of Tempo’s insensitivity (and subsequent lack of spine to apologize so readily) or the faith of the protesters?
It’ll be only a matter of time before Pos Kota joins Rasa Sayang and the Angklung as coveted items by the northern neighbor.
Unlike in Malaysia where the only thriving journalists seem to be the journalists most adept at obsequiousness (wow, did Unspun spell it right?). Which opens up the question of what kind of a journalist Zam was like before he was elevated to the post of Information Minister…would he, in the ripeness of time, qualify as yet another Eminent Journalist of the Malay World?
My God, it has been that long? When Ops Lallang happened Unspun was the bureau chief of Ipoh for The Star.
Unspun remembered going to work the morning after Ops Lallang and there was nothing to do because the government had shut us down. We were paranoid because we did not know who else was next to be arrested under the ISA. When we spoke on phones we assumed they were being tapped. When we drove, we looked at the rear view mirror to see if someone was following us.
For better or for worse, it changed the course of the lives of many of us in The Star then.
After The Star was closed down many of us felt that when they allowed The Star to reopen the best editors would have been fired, forced to resign or would have left. For the young reporters (and Unspun was young then) it was a choice of (more…)
Reporters sans Frontiers has issued its 2007 Annual Report on Press Freedom and Indonesia has improved its position, ranking only behind Hong Kong and Camodia (?) as the country with the most free press. Malaysia, of course, slipped to 124, partly because of its crackdown on bloggers.
Even so Reporters sans Frontiers weren’t without criticism of SBY:
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made statements in favour of press freedom but took no significant steps towards any improvement. On the contrary, the government tried to restore its control over the granting of broadcast licences and a new anti-terror law gave security forces very wide powers.
Pluralism of news and information continued to develop in the world’s most populous Muslim country, which boasts at least 700 publications and 1,200 radio stations, as well a score of local and national TV channels. Enthusiasm for electronic media has led to the launch of hundreds of pirate radio and TV channels which the government struggles to regulate
The Constitution and the press law guarantee freedom of expression, and in December, a constitutional court edict decriminalised “insult to the head of state”. Unfortunately, the still archaic criminal code continues to allow prison sentences for press offences.
Sadly, journalists still suffer violence in some regions. ..
Needless to say Burma and China were at the bottom of the list.
Some Malaysian bloggers are abuzz with hints that Jeff Ooi, one of Malaysia’s most preeminent bloggers, have been invited to join the opposition political party, the Democratic Action Party or DAP. So far the hints seem pretty solid and MadgeP’s Lab has posted the DAP’s electronic invitation for Jeff’s welcoming party in his blog (below).
If it all turns out to be true it would be an interesting study in possible career paths for would-be politicians. Jeff was largely unknown in Malaysia a decade or so ago. Then he started blogging, one of the first to do so in Malaysia. To his credit he was outspoken, sometimes quite brave and he was on the whole level headed and fair. This captured the attention and loyal following among the educated Malaysians, most of whom were frustrated by the government’s control of the Press and other forms of politicial expression.
The democratizing power of blogs and the internet gave people like Jeff a voice and the means to reach thousands of people. This was a feat not possible before in Malaysia, where the government controls all channels of the traditional media. The government now is fumbling at how to control that which is impossible to control by prosecuting and intimidating bloggers like Nat Tan and Raja Petra Kamaruddin.
Jeff has been very successful as a blogger and Unspun believes his site receives tens of thousands of hits per day. It will be instructive to see, however, whether he can translate his skills as an outspoken blogger into those of a politician’s. The two skill sets are worlds apart and on can only wish Jeff well. it will not be an easy ride though, especially as a politician for the opposition. The government will hassle and intimidate and within the DAP there is petty politics to contend with and turf wars to wage.
Time, as usual will be the final arbiter of whether Jeff succeeds but in the meantime, Jeff may have blazed another path – this time for bloggers to enter politics.