The Indonesian press played an important role in the fall of former President Suharto’s regime in 1998, which marked the beginning of an era that promised press freedom among other dramatic changes. With relaxation of licensing requirements and less opportunities of state control, the media sector flourished with a staggering rise in the number of outlets.
However, ten years after the start of the era of reform, the Indonesian media currently face a new set of challenges. In tune with a general global trend, the media in Indonesia have currently become commercial rather than social institutions. Demonstrating a shift of power, the political and the business elite, rather than the state, interfere with the workings of the media. Thus media freedom continues to be compromised. Challenges to press freedom come in the form of fear of imprisonment through expensive lawsuits and violence against journalists for reporting cases of corruption and violation of human right in social life. The legal mechanisms of stifling the free voice of the press also lead to a certain degree of self-censorship among journalists in reporting sensitive issues that might affect certain sacred cows.
Concentration of ownership that was apparent since the late 1980s continues to be a significant trend of the industry, despite the promises of opening up the media space in the post-1998 era. The industry is monopolised by big companies that have stakes across various media sectors. This trend, common globally, poses a threat to diversity. According to Indonesian Press Council, 288 daily newspapers, 333 weeklies and 144 monthlies currently exist in the country, along with 600 television and 1,642 FM radio stations. In addition to the mainstream media, a vibrant community media too exist, which had emerged significantly since the late 1990s.
There exists statutory provision for media accountability systems like a press council in Indonesia. This can raise doubt on the autonomy of such an institution. Article 6 of the Press Law specifies the responsibilities of the media, which include fulfilling people’s right to know, enforcing the rule of law, human rights and diversity, developing public opinion based on factual and valid information, exercising restraint in matters of public concern and fighting for justice and truth. Journalists are also encouraged to follow the Code of Ethics. The law, however, does not specify any sanction in case of breach of these responsibilities.Back to top