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



justified rap on knuckles or a threat on Press Freedom?

Update: Politikana.com has carried a story with a screen grab of the original Jakarta Globe story. It also questions why Okezone had retracted its story and issued an apology to SBY and his son when the story was balanced because Democrat party and presidential spokesperson Andi Mallarangeng had been asked about it and he had given their side of the story. The story was therefore balanced, he said.

It now appears that what The Powers that Be were chagrined about was more the headline of the Jakarta Globe story rather than the text. Perhaps this is why the Jakarta Globe’s website has still retained the story, but changed the headline from “SBY’s son accused of vote buying” (see screengrab in politicana.com) to this (still visible early this morning):


A much tamer headline. So does this mean that the Powers that Be were unhappy with the headline but have no objections to the text? So who is this Power that Be that called in Lin and Wim? And presumeably Okezone? Was it done with SBY’s knowledge or was it a personal rogue initiative?

Earlier Unspun had written:

Short post because my IM2 is sucking big time.

Okezone has apologized to President SBY and his son Edhie for lifting a story from the Jakarta Globe alleging that Edhie and the son of a lawmaker had engaged in vote buying.

The news portal said there was no truth to the report and apologized to the President and his son.

Earlier, Twitters and Facebookers were busy spreading the news that Globe chief editor Lin Neuman had been summoned to the Istana over the story.

An editor at the Globe would only say that Lin was not summoned to the Istana, but would not comment on whether he had been summoned by any government official.

Unspun’s sources said that not only Lin but editor in chief Wim Tangkilisan had been summoned to the meeting with a government official.

Earlier Facebookers had commented that this was a case of infringement on the press freedoms that Indonesia enjoys. Increasingly however it looks like a justified rap on the knuckles for the Globe in carrying a story of such gravity about so prominent person without the proper facts to back up the allegation solidly. (Hmmm. Unspun‘s conclusion here may not be quite correct. See update above.)

What good is Press Freedom?

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.

How the mighty are fallen…or roll over

Remember the breast beating by alpha male types in the editorial floors of Dow Jones of how they would stand firm against control of any kind by the Evil Rupert Murdoch?So what happens when push comes to shove? The stalwarts of free speech turn to jelly and their feet turn cold. Hmmm…so much for the custodians of our society’s freedom.The FEER’s circulation is so small that there is hardly a pulse left. Maybe its actually dead, except that the editors haven’t realized. A bit like that old movie starring Charlton Heston where El Cid dies and they strap him on a horse to frighten the Moors. This time, however, the only ones running scared are those in the castle.
clipped from www.iht.com

Rupert Murdoch and his wife, Wendi Deng. The editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review declined to publish a review of a book about Murdoch’s dealings in China, where he met Deng. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

Editor gets ‘cold feet’ on a critique of Murdoch

The Review’s editor, Hugo Restall, oversees the smallest staff and the smallest revenue of any publication in the vast global stable of Murdoch’s News Corp.
To win the long-sought prize of owning Dow Jones, Murdoch offered guarantees of editorial independence. Since then, media analysts have been waiting to see whether he would attempt to exercise editorial control over any of the Dow Jones publications.The Review’s editor confirms that his new boss has never called him.

But in one of the first tests of the Review’s independence under Murdoch ownership, Restall has admitted to getting “cold feet” over the publication of an article destined for the magazine.

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Sorry to what?

Why is the respected Tempo apologizing over a misguided complaint?Catholics apparently took umbrage with Tempo’s latest cover, which depicted Suharto and his children in a scene reminiscent of The last Supper by Da Vinci.

“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?

clipped from thejakartapost.com

‘Tempo’ apologizes for controversial Da Vinci cover

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Leading weekly magazine Tempo has apologized to the Catholic community for its cover depicting a satirical version of The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Tempo chief editor Thoriq Hadad said the magazine would publish the apology in Wednesday’s issue of Koran Tempo newspaper, online newsportal Tempointeraktif and the magazine’s next issue.

“We also decided to change the cover of our magazine’s English-language edition,” he said.

The apology came after representatives of eight Catholic organizations went to the magazine’s office Tuesday to protest over the cover, which they said had offended them.

The cover portrays the late former president Soeharto having dinner with his six children, following the same composition as Da Vinci’s masterpiece.

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Malaysian Info Minister’s hero: Harmoko

Suharto’s Information Minister Harmoko (left) may not seem like any journalist’s hero.
But he has the type of talents that only another Information Minister, and one from a neighboring country, could love.
It turns out that Malaysian Information Minister Zainudin Maidin (right) admires Pos Kota and Harmoko for being light years ahead of everyone else in their vision of journalism.Difficult to believe? Truth is stranger than fiction and for a full-blown account of this tale of admiration and neighborly awe go to the link below for a good read.

It’ll be only a matter of time before Pos Kota joins Rasa Sayang and the Angklung as coveted items by the northern neighbor.

clipped from rockybru2.blogspot.com

During the recent ‘Evening With the Media’ I spoke at some length about the Indonesian newspaper Pos Kota and their highly innovative layout and how they broke all the accepted rules of presentation in order to forge their own unique identity.

Their decision to cram the front page with snippets of all the important news contained within their pages is still considered cutting edge today as many newspapers are still adhering to the traditional rules of layout which gives room to just a few main pieces.

I mentioned Pos Kota and their brave departure with the rules because they took the initiative to free themselves of convention and I felt that this would be a good encouragement for the local Media to reinvent themselves as they face the assault of citizen journalism, blogging and online news portals.

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Zam boleh! Boleh make Malaysia-Indonesia ties worse than before

Unspun doesn’t get it. How can a former journalist be so ingenuous and insensitive as to lash out at Indonesian journalists for their aggressiveness in reporting?Indonesian journalists are aggressive because that’s what journalists in countries with a free press do. They question, the challenge and they act as a check and balance to the powers that be.

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?

clipped from thejakartapost.com
Press freedom in Malaysia and Indonesia

Imran Yacob, Kuala Lumpur

The Malaysian information minister’s lash out at the Indonesian media’s apparent aggressiveness in reporting Malaysia-Indonesia ties were thorny seems to have backfired.

The statement by the minister has in fact further strained an already icy relationship between the so-called big brother and her alleged arrogant neighbor.

This diplomatic boo-boo all but extinguishes the quiet diplomatic efforts by Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak just one week before.

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The dwarfing of a star

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.

clipped from www.jeffooi.com

20th anniversary of Ops Lalang


Today, October 27, marks the 20th anniversary of Operasi Lalang.

A total of 108 dissidents, including Opposition leaders, academics, educationists, NGO activists, were imprisoned without trial under the Internal security Act (ISA).

October 29, 1987: three newspapers were suspended, namely The Star, Sin Chew Jit Poh and Watan.

Ops-Lalang_Star.jpg Ops-Lalang_SinChew.jpg
Many say Malaysia’s journalism was cowed and never recovered ever since.

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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 Continue reading “The dwarfing of a star”

Indonesia on the up and up where Press Freedom is concerned

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.

clipped from www.rsf.org

61 Hong-Kong 20,00
85 Cambodia 25,33
100 Indonesia 30,50
120 India 39,33
124 Malaysia 41,00
128 Philippines 44,75
135 Thailand 53,50
141 Singapore 56,00
164 Burma 93,75

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The Blogosphere spilleth over…into politics

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.

Tirade against Indonesian media

Here we go again with yet another Malaysian Minister, this time an ex-journalist, ranting against the media, this time the Indonesian media, for not writing flattering things about Malaysia and the  Government there.Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin in this Bernama article (via Rocky’s Bru) wonders why the Indonesian media could not write about all the great things that Malaysia has done for its legal workers and has to focus on the negative aspects such as abuse of maids.

The answers are simple:
1. The Indonesian journalists are doing their job
2. The Indonesian journalists have what they call a Free Press.
3. If you do what you’re supposed to do, its not as newsworthy as if you stuff up
4. The skills for dissemination of information in Malaysia suck. Every time there is bad news the government shoots the messenger rather than fixes the problem and communicating about it.

clipped from www.bernama.com

BANDUNG, June 30 (Bernama) — The mass media should not jeopardise the close bilateral relations between Malaysia and Indonesia which had been forged officially for 50 years, said Malaysian Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin.

He said the mass media, whether in Malaysia or Indonesia, should play a positive role in helping to resolve whatever crisis that might crop up between the two countries from time to time.

“Never create public prejudice that can affect relations between the two countries,” he said when delivering his keynote address at the discussion “The 50-Year Dynamics of Indonesia-Malaysia Diplomatic Relations”, here today.

Expressing disappointment, he said he could not understand why the Indonesian mass media were actively reporting incidents which only involved 0.0001 per cent of the Indonesian manpower (TKI) such as abuse and raids against illegal immigrants and deportation.

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China accused of meddling with Press in Indonesia

Koran Tempo (subscription only or buy the paper) today quoted the Legal Press Assistance Board (Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Pers) as saying that China is meddling with the freedom of the Press in Indonesa. The evidence of that, said the board, was when the Chinese Embassy here sent alettet to the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission protesting against a radio staion in Batam, Erabaru (Voice of Hope)  for airing Falun Gong teachings.
The embassy has apparently asked the Commission to revoke the broadcasting license of Erabaru because of this.

Erabaru’s Operational Manager Rakhmat Pudiyanto was quoted by the paper as saying that the station, which broadcasts 60 percent of  its programs in Mandarin, does air news about Falun Gong activities because he and some friends were practitioners of Falun Gong.

Direktur Eksekutif LBH Pers Hendrayana mengatakan, dalam surat itu, Cina menuduh radio Erabaru menyebarkan ajaran Falun Gong, yang keberadaannya di Cina dilarang pemerintah Cina. “Bahkan dalam surat itu Kedutaan Besar Cina meminta KPI mencabut izin siaran radio itu,” kata dia di Jakarta pekan lalu.

Menurut Manajer Operasional Radio Erabaru Rakh