Why Bjorka should worry the Government

The danger of hacker Bjorka to the Government lies not in the information he purportedly hacked and leaked. The danger comes from the reaction of Indonesian netizens to any news or posts about Bjorka’s antics.


Check out Twitter and other social media news feeds and typical reactions are support for Bjorka and criticism of the government. Bjorka is, to many, becoming a folk hero like Robin Hood or V in V for Vendetta.

Rightly or not, the netizens’ reactions suggest Bjorka is being seen as someone flipping the bird to a government that is engaged in Double Speak, authoritarianism and Thought Control. The stuff that folk heroes battle against.

The perception of their reactions may be skewed. Netizens are known for their groundswell of rage against any authoritative figure. They may represent only the modern day chattering classes and no one else.

This is not to say, however, that they do not have a legitimate reason to rage against the Government, a sentiment that is ironically fed by the Government’s reaction to Bjorka.

So far the Government has fumbled and sent mixed messages about Bjorka. The dismissed him as inconsequential and that he has not really hacked anything important. Yet they rail against him and seen fit to set up a high level data security task force to curb activities of Bjorka and other hackers.

The Government also fed the netizen’s sense of contempt for authority from mishandling its reaction to data security leaks. Information Minister Johnny Plate’s response about needing to keep OTPs secure only exposes what many perceive to be a normalization of stupidity and incompetence in the highest levels of office.

The fact that he has not been held accountable for this and many other gross mistakes and misstatements in the past is increasingly being seen as a normalization of impunity.

This is because these days almost no one in high office is being held accountable for anything, either through their own actions or for something under their watch.

Hence you have Ferdy Sambo running a mafia within the highest echelons of police and no one high is being held accountable. In other countries the Minister for Law and the Head of Police would have to resign for letting something like this happen under their watch.

The normalization takes place because their is no longer any effective political opposition. The media, already reeling from the onslaught from social media, is cowed and does not ask questions. Foreign journalists, those pesky foreigners who ask pointed questions, are not being issued permits to work here.

Just about the only avenue for proper dissent these days is on the internet. But even here, Big Brother is at work. The word “Buzzers RP” is used with fear and loathing by netizens because they are seen as the Brown Shirts of the elite to muzzle any criticism.

When all avenues for healthy criticism and dissent seem blocked and controlled, people like Bjorka become admirable.

In all the stories of folk heroes fighting against authority the pattern is always the same. Tyranny and control up to a point where everyone is fed up. They do not know what to do. Then someone emerges who can tweak the nose of the authorities.

The people love him, the authorities overreact and attract more hatred. They start making mistakes and drive more people to support the Bjorka figures.

Then an idea of resistance is sown and from there it grows and grows.

Will this happen in Indonesia? Unlikely, but never say never….

Remembering Tim Mapes

Some of Tim’s closest friends are getting together to organize an occasion to celebrate his life, a few years of which were spent in Jakarta as the correspondent for the Asian Wall Street Journal, at the Face Bar next Tuesday evening. I think Tim would like that.

Here’s the invite message from Juliana on Facebook:

Dear Friends,
Please come to Face Bar next Tuesday to celebrate our friend Tim Mapes.

After Tim passed away, his parents told me that his time in Jakarta was the high point of his life. You were a part of making that time so special to him.

Please let me know if you are able to come and pass this on to friends who would want to join.



Former AP Newsman Ghafur Fadyl Dies

I met Ghafur and ran into him often in the days when I first got to Indonesia as a foreign correspondent for Asia Times in 1996. Didn’t see that much of him after 1997 because he moved to the business side but I remember him as being knowledgeable and easy to get along with. RIP Ghafur.

Former AP Newsman Ghafur Fadyl Dies in Indonesia

Ghafur Fadyl, a journalist who covered Indonesian dictator Suharto’s time in power and founded the Associated Press’ Jakarta bureau, has died. He was 65.

Ghafur died Saturday at a Jakarta hospital after years of treatment for cancer and kidney failure, said his wife, Farida Fadyl.

Ghafur joined the AP in 1966, the year after Suharto came to power in a bloody coup, and he oversaw coverage of most of the dictator’s brutal 32-year government. He covered rebellions in Papua, Aceh and East Timor that saw hundreds of thousands killed.

In 1997, he was named the Jakarta bureau’s sales and marketing manger and was instrumental in expanding AP’s business in the country.

Even after his move to the business side, colleagues said he remained an informed newsman who could be counted on to deliver his views with humor and humanity.

“At a time of great upheaval in Indonesian history, I knew I could always call Ghafur or walk into his office to soak up his institutional knowledge and broad perspective on fast-moving and often opaque events,” said Chris Torchia, AP’s former news editor in Jakarta who covered the country in the late 1990s.

Ghafur retired in 2007 after 41 years with AP.

He is survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter and a grandson.

“Ghafur was a class act. His kindness, good humor and keen intellect will be sorely missed, as will his friendship,” said Steve Gutkin, AP’s former Jakarta bureau chief.

Associated Press

via Former AP Newsman Ghafur Fadyl Dies in Indonesia – The Jakarta Globe.

Deutsch the new Financial Times man for Indonesia

Here’s a quick update for those observing the media scene in Indonesia:

Anthony Deutsch has been appointed Jakarta Correspondent at the Financial Times and will take up the role on 8 March. Anthony was previously Bureau Chief of the Associated Press’s Indonesia and East Timor bureau.

Looks like he beat out quite a few contestants for the post vacated by John Aglionby.

In the meantime, concolonces to the family of Maggie Ford, a former Indonesia correspondent for Euromoney and Eurofinance magazines, whom the JFCC said was  believed to have died on the morning of Feb 23 from a heart attack.

“Maggie, in her 60s, served on the JFCC executive committee and had a long history in Indonesia before moving back to Brighton in 2006. Our sympathies go out to her family and friends,” said a JFCC email to its members. Unspun extends deepest condolonces too. Maggie always added color to the JFCC and other networking functions with her very British accent.

Who would be Financial Times’ new Indonesian correspondent?

JFCC members and foreign correspondent watchers might be interested in this development with the Financial Times vacancy in Indonesia.

Who would be Financial Times’ new Indonesian correspondent?.

January 7th, 2010

Back in October Financial Times Correspondent John Aglionby packed his bags and headed home to Ole Blighty for a position in the paper after living in Jakarta for more than a decade.

FT has yet to appoint a successor to John but our correspondent Unspun has heard that they are looking. Rumor has it that after a series of interviews they have narrowed the list down to three people. Two of them are  members of the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club. One is an editor in an English language newspaper and another is acting bureau chief for an international wire service.

The third man is an internal FT candidate.

The FT would gradually make a decision but in the meantime freelancer Kath Demopoulos is filling in and covering stories from Indonesia for the FT.

The Literary Spy

Those of you old enough to remember the Far Eastern Economic Review in its heyday would no doubt have remembered Derek Davies, the larger than life figure behind the Travelers Tale column who was the basis of one of Le Carre’s fictional characters.

It now turns out that art was indeed imitating life. Derek Davies was, according to old time Asia Hand and writer Anthony Paul at The Malaysian Insider, actually a spook.





A Traveller’s Tale filled with intrigue by Anthony Paul

NOV 26 — The Far Eastern Economic Review, a magazine sometimes justifiably credited with breaking major regional news, missed reporting some riveting tales about itself.

A secret file held by MI5, Britain's counter-intelligence agency, that was recently released reveals that Eric Halpern, the man who founded the Hong Kong journal, had so dubious a reputation that London was highly reluctant to issue him with an entry visa to the territory.

After spending the World War II years as a Jewish refugee in Shanghai, Halpern had sought to settle in Hong Kong in 1946. But Sir Percy Sillitoe, then the newly appointed head of MI5, strongly disliked the idea.

Noting that Halpern had had close wartime dealings with the Japanese, possibly the Soviet and, briefly after the war, the United States' intelligence services, MI5's London headquarters asked the Hong Kong colonial authorities to “take some action to remove him from Hong Kong”.

Said a note from London: “He looks to us as if he is the kind of person who, as long as he remains, will be a perpetual and rather nagging security headache.”

The Review — or Feer, as it was also known — appears for the last time next month, a victim of the advertising downturn and new owner Rupert Murdoch's lack of interest in low profits. Many will miss the magazine, despite its often erratic editing and frequently turgid writing. Most readers might also be surprised to learn that at least two of its former editors had once been spies.

John Le Carre, author of espionage novels and himself as former British spy, has summarised a spy's life thus: “Tangle within tangle, plot and counter-plot, cross and doublecross, true agent, false agent, double agent, gold and steel…” MI5's files suggest that the Review's first editor was no stranger to this sort of life. Halpern was evidently involved in espionage for Japan, Kuomintang China, the United States and possibly the Soviet Union.

But he was not alone in his spying connections among Review editors. One of his successors, Derek Davies, an Englishman who edited the magazine for 25 years, was also a refugee from espionage — in this instance, MI6, Britain's external secret intelligence service

Read More

Jakarta foreign correspondents question deportation of 2 journalists

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



FT’s Aglionby heads home to London

After more than a decade in Jakarta, a columnist Jakarta Java Kini and another local magazine, as well as being the contributor for The Guardian and correspondent for the Financial Times in the past three years, John Aglionby is heading home.

He’ll be back at his London office, running, in his own words “the news coverage on international issues like climate change, the global financial recovery – or lack of it, etc.”

So far there’s no news who will succeed him as FT correspondent in Jakarta.

RIP FEER: How the mighty are fallen

It all seems so long ago now but there was a time when the FEER ruled the roost. When it was a trusted source of hard-to-get information, helped shape opinions, shake governments and gave journalists some respect.

These days we contend with Mickey Mouse publications that do not cover Asia in depth and full of cheap, young Westerners or freelancers that are good for the budget of advertising-starved publication but bad for everyone else.

Far Eastern Economic Review to end 63-year run in December

(HONG KONG) Dow Jones and Co yesterday announced the closure of the Far Eastern Economic Review, which from 1946 chronicled Asia’s miraculous post-war recovery but has fallen victim to the Internet age. FEER: Done in by legal wrangles, industry woes, neglect by its owners News Corp-owned Dow Jones said that it would close the publication, in years past one of Asia’s most respected English-language news magazines, in December.

“Unfortunately, despite several attempts at invigorating the brand, the Review’s continued losses in advertising revenue and readers are now unsustainable,’ it said in a statement. The publication’s heyday was in the 1980s when it was known for the depth and quality of its reporting and for standing up to authoritarian governments and big business.

One of its biggest scoops came in 1997 when the Review’s Nate Thayer was the only reporter to attend the trial of Pol Pot, the leader of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime who hadn’t been seen or photographed for 18 years. Circulation of the weekly edition peaked at about 90,000 in the 1980s, according to former Review editor Michael Vatikiotis. Dow Jones now puts the monthly figure at 20,000.

Some media specialists blame legal wrangles with the Singapore government, which has repeatedly sued the magazine for defamation, along with wider industry woes and neglect by its owners for its demise. ‘It was very influential among the foreign community interested in Asia,’ said Judith Clarke, associate professor at Hong Kong Baptist University’s journalism department.

‘It was a place where correspondents were given a lot of responsibility and it built up a good reputation based on them . . . They were getting information that was difficult to get elsewhere.’ The magazine’s combative stance was set out by founding editor Eric Halpern. He vowed to provide unflinching coverage of both politics and economics in Asia, which at the time was an impoverished backwater on the global stage and still devastated by World War II.

Mr Halpern relocated the magazine to Hong Kong after the liberation of Shanghai from Japanese occupation, contributing to the then British-controlled city’s eventual role as a media hub for the region. The Review had ‘a rich history of pioneering journalism and helped to set the standard for the press in Asia in the post-World War II era when local publications often lacked the freedom to report honestly’, said Todd Larsen, the chief operating officer for the consumer media group at Dow Jones.

The decision to close it ‘was a difficult one made after a careful study of the magazine’s prospects in a challenging business climate’, he said. Prof Clarke said that a ban on the Review in Singapore in the 1980s was particularly damaging, hitting market share just as the media industry decline began. ‘Then, in the 1990s, with the economic downturn and the growth of the Internet it became difficult to run a magazine.’

Several former staff members blamed Dow Jones’s decision to transform the publication from a weekly to a monthly five years ago, which they said hit quality. ‘As far as I am concerned, the review closed in 2004,’ said Philip Bowring, editor from 1988 to 1992. ‘It is an appalling record of bungling a successful magazine, driving it into the ground, changing the format and killing it off altogether.’

Dow Jones said that the magazine would close so opinion and commentary resources from Asia could be expanded across all its outlets, which include The Wall Street Journal Asia.

‘Dow Jones’s marketing people didn’t know how to sell it as it competed with the Wall Street Journal Asia – they ignored it and killed it by sheer neglect,’ said VG Kulkarni, a freelance journalist and former editor and correspondent at the Review.

A Dow Jones spokesman declined to comment on criticism of the magazine’s management. — AFP

Ed Wray, Photographer

Photographer Ed Wray has been one of the more friendly and down-to-earth member of the Jakarta Foreign Correspondent’s Club for years. He worked for AP but recently decided to quit and go it alone as a freelancer. He will be based in Indonesia for this new venture.

He’s also set up a website to showcase his work. Unspun‘s been there and have found the photos at times prosaic, trenchant and/or evocative. His portfolio includes shots he took as East Timor descends into chaos, the Nepali elections and Pakistan after Bhutto. He also has a series on the natural world in contrast to the doings of humans.

Here’s a photo of Kandahar Gate that Ed sent Unspun because all the photos on his site are in Flash and damn hard to copy. Enjoy and visit his site and good luck in freelancing Ed.

Kandahar Gate by Ed Wray

Former WSJ Jakarta correspondent goes in for operation today

Tim who was the WSJ’s correspondent based in jakarta till a few years ago goes in for hi second operation in Brussels today. Tim had his first operation in Singapore when doctors found a malignant tumor. The operation was a success and he relocated to Brussels.

Now doctors have found another growth and Tim goes in for operation today. Some of us in the JFCC got together and sent him a get Well card and this is what Tim had to say via e-mail:

Many many thanks for the card from you and the Jakarta gang! I received it on Friday, just before heading off for a last weekend away in the Ardennes. It was lovely there – snow covered hills, great food, tasty local beer. Just what I needed.

Now I’m back in the hospital, getting various tests and jabs ahead of tomorrow’s surgery. It’s really a drag to have to go through this whole process again, but the doctors here are confident they can remove the new growth, which apparently is fairly accessable. So I’m in good spirits, and even more so after receiving your card! Please give everyone my most profound thanks. And if anyone is ever passing through Brussels, I’ve got a spare room that’s always available!

All the best, Tim

We wish you all the best and a successful operation Tim.

Jakarta Post to launch RI

That’s Reporting Indonesia, a book aboutn the paper’s 25-year history. The Post will launch it at a party tomorrow. Unspun understands that the book is written by Reuters journalist Bill Tarrant and edited by Jeremy Wagstaff, whose Loose Wire column appears in many publications, among them The Wall Street Journal and The Jakarta Post.

The two journalists were commissioned to write and edit the book because it was felt that they had the proper distance from the paper’s past, and therefore would be able to be more objective about developments.

Jeremy and Bill are Asian veterans and have stayed in Indonesia for many years, so should have the proper perspective to do a good job. Jeremy is also on a Facebook cause to save Bugils, a effort that is so magnificant in its inevitable failure Only the English can have such devotion to the Saint of Lost Causes.

Unspun‘s looking forward to attending the book launch, not least to meet the new senior editor who’s in charge of business coverage, and also to see if the rumor that Unspun‘s mentioned in an obscure footnote in the book, eating up Unspun‘s 3 seconds of fame quota for this lifetime.