Ten Years Press Freedom in Indonesia: Between Achievements and Challenges

There have been many progresses that have been achieved with regards to the press freedom in Indonesia since the last decade after the resignation of President Soeharto in 1998 and the enactment of the new Press Law No. 40/1999.

Along these achievements, however, there are also many challenges that lie ahead which need to be paid attention and be addressed by parties concerned with this issue.

That was one of the main conclusions of one-day seminar to commemorate the World Press Freedom Day (WPFD), organised by UNESCO Jakarta in partnerships with the Indonesian Press Council, at Jakarta Media Centre, 5 May 2009. The seminar that was attended by about 50 people, coming from the members of the press including senior and veteran journalists, academics, and press experts/observers, invited four speakers, namely Leo Batubara (Vice Chairman of the Press Council), Sasa Djuarsa (Chairman of Indonesian Broadcasting Committee/KPI), Yopie Hidayat (Editor-in-Chief of tabloid Kontan) and Todung Mulya Lubis (lawyer, active in legal cases in the defense of the press freedom).

As mentioned by Leo Batubara in his presentation, also by the Chairman of Press Council, Prof Ichlasul Amal who delivered an opening remark, the press freedom in Indonesia has been contributing significantly to the democratisation process in Indonesia over the past decade. But there are still many challenges that must be faced and addressed, including the threats that the press still has to pay serious attention to, with regards to some laws that are not in line with the idea of press freedom. Other challenges, as explained by Chairman of KPI, Sasa Djuarsa, include the freedom that has been sometimes exercised excessively, without careful consideration of a number of guidance, as can be found in some television programmes.

Inconsistency in the legal field was also the focus of the presentation of Todung Mulya Lubis. He was referring to the Press Law 1999, which to some judges is considered as a “general law”, but by some others is considered as “specific law” (that means that the court of law must use the Press Law, and not the Criminal Law, as its main guidance in the trial involving the press). Lubis said that a revision of the Press Law may be taken into consideration, but it needs a guarantee that the parliament will be committed to safeguard the press freedom, and not to put back some restrictions into the draft.

Challenges from inside the press were the subject of Yopie Hidayat’s presentation. Referring to his own experience as journalists for years, including as an Editor-in-Chief in the last few years, he considered that one of the major challenges faced by the press is to embrace and adapt to the advancement in the field of technologies but must also manage to exercise its independency up to maximum level, especially independency from owner’s intervention.

The celebration of the WPFD has traditionally been an annual event of UNESCO and the Press Council over the past years. It is for the first time this year that the event was also compounded with awards for the best journalistic works in relation to the press freedom. Winners of this first year’s award were Ninok Leksono (senior journalist of Kompas daily) for the development of press freedom category, and Abdul Manan (journalist of Koran Tempo daily) for the protection of press freedom category. The winners received certificate and cash at the amount of Rp 5 million.

© UNESCO Jakarta/Arya Gunawan

Source:UNESCO Office, Jakarta


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