Indonesia 3985
Photo by: bayu harsa

Basic Data


Official Country Name: Republic of Indonesia
Region (Map name): Southeast Asia
Population: 228,437,870
Language(s): Bahasa Indonesia, English, Dutch
Literacy rate: 83.8%
Area: 1,919,440 sq km
GDP: 153,255 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 172
Total Circulation: 4,782,000
Circulation per 1,000: 36
Number of Nondaily Newspapers: 425
Total Circulation: 7,758,000
Circulation per 1,000: 59
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 2,100,000 (Rupiah millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 25.00
Number of Television Stations: 41
Number of Television Sets: 13,750,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 60.2
Number of Cable Subscribers: 42,080
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 0.2


Number of Satellite Subscribers: 3,900,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 17.1
Number of Radio Stations: 803
Number of Radio Receivers: 31,500,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 137.9
Number of Individuals with Computers: 2,100,000
Computers per 1,000: 9.2
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 2,000,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 8.8

Background & General Characteristics

As of the early 2000s, the Republic of Indonesia (RI) was a fascinating site at which to study the current status of the press in a diverse, dynamic, rapidly urbanizing, and populous nation: the interplay of press and political forces, the changing economy, and, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, a vast change in the role of, expectations for, and situation of the press.

Thirty years ago Indonesia had to import its news-print; heavily taxed, it was a drain on scarce foreign currency, driving up the price of newspapers. As of 2002 some of the world's leading pulp and paper companies exported paper from Indonesia. Until the beginning of what is known as the reformasi (reformation) era, beginning with the resignation of President Suharto in 1998, the strong arm of the government was seen to be the greatest restriction on the press. In 2002, however, the perceived threat was from a different source. In 2001 and 2002, violence toward and intimidation of the press were being carried out by thugs and mobs in reaction to what was being published.

Local newspapers, both urban and small city presses, had long been an accessible forum for young writers, including university students, who published their own short stories and feature articles which had been researched from the foreign press. Unlike most western newspapers, Indonesian newspapers regularly published short fiction. Moreover, although Indonesian culture was frequently characterized as a predominately oral culture, more attuned to the sounds of wayang (puppet theatre), a becak (pedicab) driver in Yogyakarta was as likely to be seen sitting in his vehicle reading the local newspaper as using it for an impromptu umbrella. He might have, in fact, gone with a half-dozen of his fellow drivers to regularly take a newspaper. Newspapers had been and remained an important part of daily life for many; the printed word was infused with mystique and authority.

In one of Indonesia's great novels, a journalist is featured as the leading character. This Earth of Mankind , by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, is based, along with three other novels in the series, on the life of a pioneer Indonesian journalist, Tirto Adi Suryo. Tirto Adi Suryo, a major figure of Indonesian national awakening, helped to determine the language framework of the new nation. Pramoedya first told the story to his fellow prisoners during his many years of detention, then he wrote it down in secret.

The Land and People

In the early 2000s, Indonesia was the fourth largest nation in the world with a population of more than 225 million. Strung along the equator, the country is a collection of islands and peoples. Abundant in natural resources and diverse in its people, Indonesia is vast. It is longer than the United States from Maine to California is wide (5,120 kilometers from east to west). Predominately Muslim as of the early 2000s, it had been influenced by Indian, Arabic, Malay, Chinese, Melanesian, and European cultures. Indonesia was divided into seven regions: Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sula-west, Maluku, West Papua, and Nusa Tenggara.

The most heavily populated island is Java, although it is far from the largest. Javanese people make up 45 percent of the country's population. Other major groups are Sundanese (mostly inhabiting West Java), 14 percent; Madurese, 7.5 percent; and Malays, 7.5 percent. A comprehensive family planning program had been in place since the early 1970s, resulting in a reduction in population growth rate from 2.3 percent in 1972 to 1.56 percent in 2000.

More than 17,000 islands make up the nation; in 2002 some 6,000 were inhabited. The large islands have interiors with high, rugged mountains and about one hundred active volcanoes. The volcanic action has contributed to a rich agricultural soil on many islands. The climate is hot, except where tempered by high altitudes, and the main variable is rainfall: there is a dry season and a rainy season.

Both Asian and European traders were attracted to the spices available on these rich islands. In 1619 the Dutch conquered a city on the northwest Java coast, burned it, and built a new city they named Batavia. It was centuries, however, before the Dutch were able to claim most of the islands, which ultimately resulted in one of the world's richest colonial possessions of all time.

The average annual income is US$570, with enormous and growing disparity between the highs and the lows. Life expectancy at birth is 64 years for females, 60 years for males. Universal suffrage is granted to those over the age of 17, and married persons regardless of age are allowed to vote.

A significant trend in the past 30 years has been urbanization. Between 1970 and 1990 the percentage of the population living in urban areas rose from 17 percent to 31 percent. A high degree of social stratification existed, yet classes were hard to clearly divide. Some argued that the Indonesian middle class was defined in 2002 mainly by patterns of consumption.

Freedom of religion was guaranteed by the Constitution to five recognized religions. They are Islam (87 percent of the population), Protestantism (6 percent), Catholicism (3 percent), Buddhism (2 percent), and Hinduism (1 percent).

Literacy & Education

The official language is Bahasa Indonesia, and it is taught in all elementary schools. Most people speak at least one other regional language. In the early 2000s, adult literacy was figured at an average of 85 percent, with a higher rate for males (about 89 percent) than for females (about 78 percent). The rates for both had been increasing steadily over the previous generation. Nine years of school were compulsory, with enrollment estimated at 92 percent of eligible primary school-age children. Some 44 percent of secondary school-age children attend junior high school. About 6 percent of the population aged 19-24 was engaged in higher education.

An ever-rising rate in the consumption of print media had been fostered by the increased literacy rates, by the expansion of the middle class with the financial ability to buy newspapers and magazines, and by a growing felt importance of print media in everyday life. In the early 2000s the median age of Indonesia was quite young. The age structure of readership for print media showed that 65 percent were age 34 or younger; 35 percent were over the age of 35.

Before independence in 1945, Malay had long been used as a lingua franca , particularly along the coasts of Java and Sumatra. Dutch was the language of people with a formal, Western-style education, but during the colonial era there were very few of these. An important language step was taken on October 28, 1928, a day that is still celebrated as "Pledge of Youth Day." At the second Indonesian Youth congress meeting in Jakarta, despite their dependence on Dutch, the language of power, and Javanese, the language of the majority, the youth pledged themselves to the language to be known as Indonesian. The Sumpah Pemuda (Pledge of Youth), as it is known, called for them to commit themselves to one nation, one motherland, and one language.

When the Japanese invaded the islands in 1942 and forced out the Dutch, they prohibited the use of Dutch language, which caused the educated of the populace to have to resort to Malay, later to be named Bahasa Indonesia. For this reason, among other reasons, Bahasa Indonesia was well positioned to become the national language in 1945. In 1973 the spelling of Bahasa Indonesia, which is written with the Latin alphabet, was regularized or simplified and made more similar to the spelling of Malaysian.

Local languages remain important; there are 583 still spoken. Languages with one million or more speakers are (in order of their approximate numbers): Javanese, Sundanese, Malay, Madurese, Minangkabau, Balinese, Buginese, Achenese, Toba Batak, Makassarese, Banjarese, Sasak, Lampung, Dairi Batak, and Rejang. English is the most widely spoken foreign language, and it is taught in all elementary schools.

Pancasila, the National Founding Philosophy

Pancasila (five principles) is important to an understanding of social and political thinking in Indonesia. Sukarno, the founding president of the republic, articulated five principles on June 1, 1945, which were then written into the Constitution as the principles of the new country. His statement, although simple in form, reflected a sophisticated understanding of the complexity of the ideological needs of the new nation. Pancasila (five principles) reflected a culturally neutral identity, compatible with democratic, Marxist, or Muslim points of view, and it did not allow for the formation of an Islamic state.

The five principles are: belief in one supreme God, humanitarianism, nationalism expressed in unity, consultative democracy, and social justice. Sukarno presented these ideas in terms of an ideal village in which society is egalitarian, the economy is built on mutual assistance, and decision-making is by consensus.

Historical Background of the Press

The Dutch established the first newspapers in the late eighteenth century. Most publications were little concerned with local events, but published news they received from Europe. In 1816, the year the Dutch took over once again after a brief interregnum by the British, the first local general interest paper was founded, Bataviasche Courant . The name was changed to Javasche Courant not long afterwards, and this newspaper was published continually until the Japanese occupation in 1942.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, about 30 Dutch newspapers were being published in islands, mostly in Jakarta, but also De Locomotief in Semarang, Mataram in Jogjakarta, and De Preanger Bode in Bandung.

The first Indonesian periodicals appeared in the mid1800s. A magazine in Javanese, Bromartani , began publication in 1855. A newspaper in Malay called Soerat Kabar Bahasa Melajoe began publication in Surabaya in 1856. Both were financed by the Dutch.

The first completely Indonesian newspaper, Medan Prijaji (Officialdom), began publication in 1907. Other newspapers of the early part of the century were Darmo-Kondo (Surakarta, Java), Sinar Hindia (Semarang, Java), Oetoesan Hindia (Surabaya, Java), Oetoesan Borneo (Pontianak, Kalimantan), Benih Mardika (Medan, Sumatra), and Tjaja-Soematra (Padang, Sumatra). Circulations were small, as might be expected where as few as five percent of the population was literate in Indonesian, and there was little advertising. However, these early newspapers became instruments of communication among the early nationalist movement and fired the flames created by the Budi Utomo movement founded in 1908. Budi Utomo (High Endeavor) at first promoted Javanese cultural values and pushed for access to Western-style education. As time went on, it became more political, promoting a nationalist spirit.

Around the same time, a flourishing publishing business grew up in the Chinese-Indonesian community. Some of the best known of these newspapers were Sin Po (Jakarta, 1910), which had a circulation at one time of 10,000; Ik Po (Surakarta, 1904); and Tjhoen Tjhiou (Surabaya, 1914). Another Surabaya-based newspaper, Sin Tit Po , was considered a leader in the nationalist movement. Most of these papers were published in Batavian Malay, a Malay language influenced by the Hokkien dialect of Chinese. Ik Po , however, used Chinese characters.

When the Japanese invaded the islands in 1942, all Dutch and most Indonesian newspapers were banned. The military government established several newspapers, including Djawa Shinbun in Jakarta and Sinar Matahari in Jogjakarta. An underground press sprang up, Merah Putih (The Red and White) in Surakarta being one of the most notable publications.

The story of the rise in national consciousness is inseparable from the history of the press. Journalists and nationalists were in close association; often they were one and the same. In the early 2000s a mythology lingered that identified journalists with the struggle, as actors in the pers perjuangan (the press of the struggle). This myth was in direct confrontation with a new reality: young journalists who were first generation of the urban petty bourgeoisie who had prospered in the New Order identified with the burgeoning consumerist environment of urban Indonesia, not with the idea of resistance.

Major Figures in Journalism

Major figures in Indonesian journalism include Goenawan Mohamad, founder of Tempo magazine, prolific writer, and director of the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information. Also, Mochtar Lubis (b. 1922), known widely for his searingly realistic novels, founded the newspaper Indonesia Raya (1949-74), which was closed down by the government. He was a prominent part of the liberal opposition to both Sukarno's Guided Democracy and Suharto's New Order and was jailed by both governments.

Recent Developments in the Press

"A bolder spirit took hold in Indonesia in 1994," wrote A. Lin Neumann (11), a spirit influenced partly by an international resistance movement. This movement had been sweeping much of Asia, in the Philippines first, followed by South Korea and Taiwan, and Thailand when it rejected a military government in 1992 and experienced a flowering of the press. It was perhaps inevitable that Indonesia would take part.

An important aspect of the diverse contemporary periodical publishing scene is the variety of viewpoints. Islamic publishing alone represented a wide spectrum of viewpoints. Media Dakwah (Media of the Proclamation of Faith), for example, made clear its campaign for an Islamic state and Middle Eastern political ideals, while the Jakarta newspaper Republika was brashly cosmopolitan. The title, "Islamic Communication," an academic field taught in certain private Islamic universities, bore witness to the high importance placed in Islamic circles for communicating their ideas.

After reform, one Indonesian journalist categorized the press in three ways: "establishment" newspapers such Kompas and Republika , more "aggressive" newspapers such as Rakyat Merdeka and Jawa Pos , and "extreme" Islamic papers such as Sabili. It may be that the balance among these was shifting. The press in earlier years tended to exhibit many of the social norms of the polite Javanese—circumspection, self-restraint, and the practice of saying the truth gently. Readers were accustomed to reading between the lines. Aggressive journalism could, by these standards, seem insensitive and crude, but the press seemed to be going more and more in this direction.

Some analysts saw a major transition in the media that was less obvious than the freedom from governmental restrictions, but possibly more worrisome. Print journalism from its early days held to the image of a truth-seeking, idealistic force. This image was also carried in the public mind, so that even though Indonesia was rightly characterized as an oral culture, the printed word tended to be endowed with prestige and authority. The late 1990s were years of rapid industrialization of print media. Particularly in the case of electronic media, a large influx of foreign investment was changing the media picture rapidly.

News Media

During the Suharto years, it took political connection, patience, and significant amounts of money

under the table to get permission to publish a newspaper or newsmagazine. The years between his resignation in 1998 and the early 2000s were characterized by Indonesian people variously as otonomi , demokrasi , or reformasi (autonomy, democracy, or reformation), an explosion in news media occurred.

Approximately 1,000 newspapers had registered and begun publishing around the turn of the millennium. Some of these publications withered within a matter of months, as resources dried up and the market did not support them. But without a doubt, a flourishing and varied publishing industry was putting the daily results of its work out on city streets.

Major newspapers included Kompas in Jakarta, established in 1965 and published by Kompas Media PT. Jakob Oetoma, who served on the Press Council of the country, was both publisher and editor of this paper. Kompas was part of a significant publishing conglomerate under Catholic leadership, with extensive book (the Gramedia division) and magazine publishing, as well as six newspapers. This fact might seem remarkable in a majority-Muslim nation. Not all Indonesians viewed this fact with pride, but many saw it as evidence of their country's famed religious tolerance.

Jawa Pos , founded in 1949 in Surabaya, is widely distributed in the eastern part of the nation. The Jawa Pos group (PT Jawa Pos), headed by Dahlan Iskan, a former reporter, was known for its dynamic business policy of either buying out small regional newspapers or starting new ones. The Jawa Pos and others in the group made a point of attentive reporting on regional affairs, unlike many of Jakarta standard papers. It was also known for its policy of supporting paid staff journalists in news bureaus around the world, whose reporting helped bring world events to Jawa Pos readers and those of other newspapers in the group. Many of the newspapers in the group were recognizable for the word Pos or the word Radar in their names, such as Kupang Pos or Tangerang.

Pos Kota was a popular, low-priced, Jakarta newspaper with a circulation of more than half a million. Established in 1970, it was published by P. T. Metro Pos. It was widely read by blue-collar workers in the urban area and enjoyed for its simple language and direct human interest. This was the sort of paper that ojek drivers (who form a collective to carry passengers on their motorbikes) tended to go as a group to buy and read together.

Republika was founded in 1991 in Jakarta as a Muslim daily, to be the official organ of the Association of Indonesian Islamic Intellectuals. From its beginning, it claimed to make the effort to serve the interests of the entire Islamic community. This fact put it at odds with more conservative Islamic organizations. In the mid-1990s, Republika was the object of a number of demonstrations organized by Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia (Indonesia Council for Islamic Proclamation) for showing what they called a "cosmopolitan" attitude, publishing stories on art and film that were considered "very unIslamic."

One of the oldest newspapers of the country was still published regularly in Yogyakarta, Central Java. Kedaulatan Rakyat (Sovereignty of the People) was established in 1945 by P. T. Badan Penerbit Kedaulatan Rakyat. In the early 2000s, it had a circulation of 72,000. Another of Indonesia's oldest newspapers was Pikiran Rakyat , which had its beginning in Bandung in the 1920s in a different form. Published in 2002 by P. T. Granesia, it had a circulation of more than 150,000. During his student days in Bandung, Sukarno was one of its contributors. Suara Pembaruan , published in Jakarta with a circulation of 250,000, was considered a serious newspaper. It was started in 1987 by Indonesian Protestants after the government put their Sinar Harapan out of business. Angkatan Bersenjata (Armed Forces) was the newspaper published since 1965 in Jakarta for the armed forces. In 2002 its circulation was 52,000.

Of the three English-language newspapers published in Jakarta, the Indonesian Observer was the oldest (1955) and continued to be widely respected. With a circulation of 25,000, it was smaller than the subsequent newspapers Indonesia Times (1974) and Jakarta Post (1983). Jakarta Post moved quickly into other major cities, aggressively soliciting subscriptions. Indonesia Times claimed a circulation

of 35,000 and Jakarta Post of 50,000.was widely relied upon by the international community.

Much of the Indonesian news media, both in Indonesian and in English, could be accessed on the Web from a single site known as Jendela Indonesia (Window on Indonesia), created at the Illinois Institute of Technology (üindonesia/jendela/ ). In 2002, some 33 newspapers, 32 magazines, 18 journals and 4 TV station transcripts could be read in this way.

Press Coverage of East Timor

Coverage of the events surrounding the vote of East Timor for independence in 1999 proved to be a test of the press's own newfound independence. The tragic aftermath of the vote shattered international goodwill that had developed following the moves toward democracy building in Indonesia. The military chose to back the bands of armed pro-Indonesia militia groups in their reaction to the vote. In a short time, the entire infrastructure of the province, including the press infrastructure, was destroyed, and two journalists were killed, one Indonesian and one Dutch. Many Indonesian journalists suffered beatings and threats, along with foreign journalists.

The military ordered Indonesian journalists to evacuate the area "for their own protection." When the Australian-led peacekeeping force was sent to East Timor several weeks later, journalists began to return. World press was focused on the assault on East Timor, but the anger of the Indonesian press focused mainly on Australian "interference." Editorials called for a jihad against westerners and blamed the U. N. and Western press for the independence vote. A study by the Institute for the Free Flow of Information (ISAI) later concluded that the Indonesian press had relied heavily on the Indonesian government analysis of events. As tempers calmed and the U. N. presence began to return some normalcy to East Timor, the Indonesian press began to take a more balanced view, documenting and publishing the results of government investigations into military actions in the new nation.

Economic Framework

The economy of Indonesia was transformed from virtually no industry in 1965 to a producer of steel, aluminum, and cement by the late 1970s. During the last fifteen or so years of the century, consumer goods and paper products were produced in massive amounts to meet a growing demand from the middle class. By the mid-1990s, Indonesia ranked thirteenth among the world's economies, just behind Canada.

Before the construction of newsprint mills in the 1980s and 1990s, newspaper production was severely handicapped by the government's desire to limit the outgo of foreign exchange for the purchase of newsprint. A limited amount was imported free of import taxes and allotted to various newspapers, determined by Serikat Penerbit Suratkabar (Newspaper Publishers' Association, SPS). Newsprint in excess of the allotment had to be purchased on the open market with a 20 percent import tax. Furthermore, in 1978 a devaluation of the rupiah severely affected struggling publishers. It increased the cost of newsprint by 50 percent and drove newspaper prices up, causing declines in circulation. Advertising rates were also raised. As a result, many weaker publishers went under, while the larger papers became stronger.

With the barriers to publishing newspapers and magazines falling in the late 1990s, with the requirement of obtaining a license done away with, publishing began to be seen as a wide-open economic opportunity. At one point in 2001, some 1,100 publications were registered. However, the number in actual circulation afterward declined precipitously as market forces took their toll. Tabloids first began appearing in 1998, and constituted about one quarter of the number of newspapers published in 2002.

One of the most dynamic industries in the country through the 1990s was pulp and paper. The lifeblood of this industry was the country's enormous tracts of tropical rain forests, which at that time occupied about 70 percent of the landmass. By 1999, there were 81 paper mills in Indonesia producing 2.1 million tons of cultural and newsprint paper. In that year 530,000 tons of newsprint were produced, about two-fifths for domestic consumption and three-fifths for export. Almost all of the equipment for pulp and paper factories had to be imported. Domestic paper consumption (of all kinds) was 16.5 kilograms per capita in 2000.

The largest pulp and paper manufacturer in Indonesia was the Sinar Mas Group, known as Asia Pulp & Paper Company for all of its international operations. Most paper mills were located on the vast, rugged, and forested island of Sumatra. Indonesia was expected to continue to play a continually greater role in the paper supply of Asia, because most countries of Asia, except for Indonesia, had depleted their forests.

Vertical integration was becoming an economic force with media corporations such as Jawa Pos owning paper mills. Distribution costs of newspapers averaged about 40 percent of cover prices. Newsprint in 1999 cost an average of Rupiah 29,000 a ton (US$36.25). Cover prices of newspapers range from US$.19 to $.20 for top end serious newspapers to US$.11 for a newspaper such as Pos Kota . Many readers bought their newspapers on the street, and on weekday mornings newsboys lined major intersections where traffic lights stopped the commuter traffic.

Newspaper reading patterns are dependent upon disposable income. When times are difficult, such as when the rupiah was devalued in 1978, newspaper buying tends to go down. However, during the monetary crisis of 1998, circulation actually rose because of the overwhelming interest in the political crisis. A single newspaper purchased from a street vender cost as much as a simple meal of nasi campur (rice and side dishes) purchased from another vendor. An annual subscription to a mainline newspaper such as Kompas cost about US$60 a year. When a family could buy a modest television set for US$55, the choice would most likely be the television.

Press Laws

The duty of the press is "strengthening national unity and cohesion," as stated by Press Law 21 of 1982. Moreover, the Minister of Information at that time promised that a publishing license would be revoked only "when the press is not in line with the philosophy of the nation and the state." With unity as the paramount value, newspapers in general took a cautious, self-censoring stand. When some stepped out of line, they were closed down. Sinar Harapan , a Protestant daily with a large circulation in Jakarta, was closed in 1986 for economic reporting that was less than optimistic. (Its editorial columns had been discussing the issue of presidential term limitations as well.) Prioritas was closed down the following year.

With the political changes in the late 1990s, laws relating to the media also began changing in rapid succession. In September 1999, just as he was leaving office, Habibie signed Press Law 40, a law that reversed more than a generation of repressive legislation. It eliminated press licensing, removed the ability of the government to ban publications, and guaranteed freedom of the press. It called for penalties on those who would restrict press

freedom and for self-regulation through an independent press council. Indonesians look back on this point as the time of kuda lepas kandang (the horses let loose from their pen).

A short time later, almost as soon as he took office, incoming president Abdurrahman Wahid got rid of the Kementrian Penerangan , the Ministry of Information, which had been used so long as a tool of propaganda and coercion under the Suharto government. It was later replaced by an agency known as Lembaga Informasi Nasional (LIN). However, the role of LIN was quite different. It was designed to improve the quality of public access to information and to coordinate public information in such areas as health, public services, and regulation. Although "public empowerment" was stated as one of its goals, its structure was generally a top-down system.

A decree in 2001 by President Megawati Sukarnoputri reestablished a Ministry of Information but subsumed it under the Ministry of State instead of making it a cabinet level post as it had been in for many years. There was concern by the industry that this step might be laying the foundation for a return to the policies of earlier years, but most observers remained optimistic about the situation.

As dramatic as the changes were, the Press Law of 1999 applied only to print media. There remained statutes in the Criminal Code that could be used against journalists for actions such as "leaking state secrets," "insulting the President and the Vice President," and "insulting a dead person." Nor is there any constitutional guarantee for a free press; the existing press laws could easily be changed in years to come.

The Indonesian Broadcasting Act of 1996 made official what was in fact occurring. According to existing law, Televisi Republik Indonesia (TVRI) was the only recognized television broadcaster; however, several private corporations had already set up operations. The new law authorized these corporations to broadcast their own news programs, in effect breaking the state monopoly on news.

In July of 2002, a comprehensive broadcasting bill, two years in the making, was being hotly discussed. A proposal to limit media-cross ownership, proposed to prevent a monopoly on opinion by major media groups, was contested by media representatives. Press Society representatives argued that the measure would serve as a barrier for new television stations which might contest the current hold on broadcasting airways (at least four of nine existing private TV stations are partly owned by family members of former president Suharto).


Censorship was a part of the media scene in Sukarno's Guided Democracy era and Suharto's New Order. From 1974 to 1977, domestic newspapers were required to obtain, in addition to the publishing license from the Ministry of Information, a permit from Kopkamtib , the internal security organization. Kopkamtib , then was the primary agency that monitored the press. Rather than outright censorship, the agency was more likely to hold briefings telling editors what kind of news should be printed.

Censorship often took the form of pre-censorship or self-censorship. For example, in 1980 a group of prominent retired military officials and members of parliament put together what was called the Petition of 50, criticizing President Suharto for his failure to adhere to Pancasila , the state philosophy that is the guiding light of Indonesian thought. Editors were ordered not to allow reporting on the petition.

Periodicals were not the only publications censored during the New Order. Prominent literary figures such as dramatist W. S. Rendra and novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer had their works banned from print. Many important foreign scholarly books deemed critical of the administration were also banned. But with all book bannings, the ubiquitous photocopy machine continued to produce books for those who wanted them, and banned books could be found around university campuses.

The Ministry of Information in 2002 included a Film Censorship board, consisting of representatives of various fields, such as foreign relations, cinematography, and culture. The board considered the educational, informational, and entertainment value of films in deciding whether they would be shown.

State-Press Relations

The Press under Guided Democracy and the New Order

During the years following independence, the press blossomed in freedom. Some English-language papers were introduced, many more papers in Indonesian began, and the Chinese press prospered. In 1956, Sukarno introduced the concept of Guided Democracy, abandoning the parliamentary form of government in favor of reaching a consensus among the power groups—the right-wing military groups, the powerful Partai Komunis Indonesia (Communist Party, PKI), and himself. Then, Sukarno instituted stringent policies regarding the press, requiring them to become active supporters of government policies. Within a few years, the number of papers and their circulation had dropped by about half.

By the early 1960s, the PKI was the largest Communist Party outside China and the USSR Tension between the army and the PKI grew and culminated on September 30, 1965, with the kidnap and murder of six generals in what appeared to be a takeover. The response was swift in the weeks and months that followed. Rightist gangs killed tens of thousands of alleged communists, especially in rural areas. Estimates of the number of deaths were placed at 500,000 and even upward. For more than a generation, an accusation of being "involved" could cost a person a job. Even in 2002, commentators on Indonesia both within and without would say that Indonesia had not yet come to terms with the events of 1965-66, historically, morally, or politically.

During the Suharto years (1966-98), it was a widely accepted, but also convenient, belief that a free, Western-style press was not compatible with Indonesian society and mores. Controls on the media employed many strategies: coercion, threats, or even straightforward briefings from military or governmental officials warning editors to stay away from certain happenings in the interest of national stability.

In 1980, the national government, in an attempt to bolster literacy and civic understanding, began a program called Koran Masuk Desa , (Newspapers for the Village). It provided a subsidy for four-page regional weekly papers, usually in Bahasa Indonesia, but sometimes in a local language. The program was augmented later with TV Masuk Desa , a program to supply free television sets to villages.

One New Order media closing of 1990 probably contributed indirectly to the push for greater press freedom. The upstart Jakarta tabloid Monitor , with a circulation of 700,000, took a poll of its readership concerning their most admired figure. The results were published, showing the Prophet Mohammad trailing Suharto, Sukarno, and Saddam Hussein. An enraged mob of Muslim youth stormed the newspaper offices, and in response the Information Minister put the tabloid out of business and charged the editor, Arswendo Atmowiloto, with blasphemy. Atmowiloto was given the maximum prison sentence, five years.

Many saw the newspaper closing and the prosecution as a response to religious pressure inappropriate in a pluralistic society. Abdurrahman Wahid, founding head of the Democracy Forum, was quoted as saying "without [the Monitor case], maybe it would have taken another couple of years," meaning the general push toward press freedom.

After the downfall of Suharto, despite the slowness of reform on many fronts, press freedom was a part of the agenda of both Habibie and Wahid. Just before leaving office in September 1999 Habibie signed a liberal press law that did away with earlier repressive legislation and provided protection for the print media.

Pressures on the Media

Some pressures on the media were long-standing. A custom known as "envelope journalism" persisted, where a payment was made for a favorable story or for withholding information. Other pressures resulted from the changed circumstances of the press. Organizations such as the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) reported almost an epidemic of violence and threats against publishers and journalists by mobs and thugs. The alliance questioned the resolve and the ability of the government to deal with it. Much of this violence took place in rural and outlying areas. As a result, publishers and reporters inevitably became cautious. Self-censorship by a news agency in a far-flung post meant that the newspaper-reading public in the centers of power would not be aware of critical information, and the interests of the nation would not be served. Furthermore, important local stories did not get covered for fear of the hostility of certain groups.

Press Organizations and Code of Ethics

As the number of newspapers and magazines burgeoned in the free atmosphere of the reformation period, so had the number of press organizations, with 36 on the record as of 2002. The longest-standing press organization was Persatuan Wartawan Indonesia (PWI).

In reaction to the banning of a number of weeklies in 1994, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) was formed with the backing of the editors of some of them, such as Eros Djarot of DeTik and Goenawan Mohamad of Tempo . The following year, Ahmad Taufik (the founding chairman) and Iko Maryadi, editor of Suara Independent were arrested on charges of insulting Suharto in print and were imprisoned for two years. Many AJI members were fired because their employers feared being shut down.

Representatives of 26 press organizations came together in Bandung in 1999 to draw up an agreed-upon code of ethics. The code of ethics stated:

  • Indonesian journalists respect the right of the people to receive true information.
  • Indonesian journalists follow ethical procedures for getting and releasing information, including identifying the source of the information.
  • Indonesian journalists respect the fundamental presumption of innocence and do not mix fact with opinion, but always weigh and investigate the truth of the information. They do not commit plagiarism.
  • Indonesian journalists do not spread information which is untrue, slanderous, sadistic, or pornographic and do not identify victims of sexual assault by name.
  • Indonesian journalists do not take bribes and do not take unfair advantage of their position.
  • Indonesian journalists have the Right of Refusal; they respect background information and information that is off the record according to mutual agreement.
  • Indonesian journalists immediately retract or correct any wrong in the news and honor the Right to Respond.

The Presidential Decree of 2000 created a nine-member Dewan Pers (Press Council), with representatives from news reporters, media executives, television, radio, and one person representing the public.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

During the 31 years of Suharto's government, foreign press was subject to some interference. Foreign magazines and newspapers entering the country were first given a once-over by censors. Offending articles or photographs were often blacked out. Journalists considered to be overly critical of the Indonesian government were simply denied visas. Security and immigration officials maintained a secret black list. Materials printed in Chinese characters were banned outright after the new government of 1966 was established, a ban that continued until Suharto stepped down.

In the early 2000s foreign journalists were still required to obtain a special visa to work in the country. Some reporters ignored the requirement, and some were detained and deported for that violation. In 2001 the Foreign Affairs Department banned foreign journalists from entering the trouble spots of Aceh, Maluku, and West Papua. Both Aceh and West Papua had strong separatist movements, and Maluku was the scene of repeated violence between groups with differing beliefs. Journalists found this out in January when they applied for work visas. Specifically hand-written into the permit were the words: "not valid for visits to Aceh, Maluku, and West Papua."

Indonesian nationalists working for foreign publications or agencies had to receive accreditation. They were also required to be members of the Indonesian Journalists' Association.

News Agencies

The major and long-standing news agency was Antara (among or between). Founded as a private agency in 1937, it became the official agency in 1945. President Sukarno had Antara merged with other news agencies in 1963 to form the Lembaga Kantor Berita Nasional (National News Agency Institute, LKBN), but it continued to be referred to as Antara. Antara was closed for a time during the "attempted coup" of 1965, weeded of its left-dominated factors, and reorganized. A more recent independent agency was Kantorberita Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian National News Bureau, KNI).

Broadcast Media


Radio is arguably the most important medium in Indonesia. Its tones are heard in the market, the village, the rice paddy, and the mini-bus. The national radio station, Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI) was founded in August 1945 almost as soon as independence was granted. During World War II, the Japanese occupational forces used radio as a major propaganda tool, and figures such as Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta who were to become prominent in nation-building received wide coverage, becoming household names among villagers.

One of RRI's first tasks was to encourage the Indonesian people in their struggle, as Dutch troops invaded the newly proclaimed republic. This struggle for freedom lasted for four years.

In the early 2000s, RRI was headquartered in Jakarta, with major relay stations in Medan (Sumatra), Yogykarta (Java), Banjarmasin (Kalimantan), Makassar (Sulawesi), and Jayapura (West Papua). In 2002, RRI had 53 stations staffed by approximately 8,500. RRI's overseas program, Voice of Indonesia, broadcast in ten languages: Indonesian, Arabic, Malaysian, Mandarin, Thai, Japanese, Spanish, German, English, and French. Private radio companies were in operation since 1966. They were advised to include informative, educational, and cultural programs in their broadcasts. However, they were no longer required to carry news programs produced by RRI.

Under Suharto, radio stations were required to carry the news broadcasts from the state. They were banned from doing independent reporting. The association of radio station owners was headed by Suharto's daughter, and licenses were given out to party faithfuls. Within two years after the collapse of the Suharto government in 1998, the number of independent radio stations grew by more than 30 percent, from about 750 to more than 1000 stations. Many broadcast journalists and station managers had to learn on the job. In-depth radio journalism programs or investigative reports on radio were still scarcely to be found in Indonesia. To bolster the overall quality of news and information programming, Internews (the international organization sponsored by the United States to assist fledgling broadcasters) produced three weekly radio programs and distributed them through a network of partner stations. As of June, 2000, RRI has been changed in status by presidential decree from a government-owned radio to a public broadcasting corporation (BUNM).


Indonesian television history illustrated a medium finding its own way, going from one state-produced official channel to a multiplicity of commercial channels. It included periods of time when advertising was banned as contrary to traditional values. Televisi Republik Indonesia (TVRI) began operations in 1964 and remained a major player despite the growing importance of commercial television. Since it enjoyed a longstanding monopoly with a mission of promoting the official viewpoint, it long remained in a state of stagnation. The Indonesian government early on recognized the importance of television as a policy instrument and a tool to promote national unity in these far-flung islands. This insight drove the program to provide free television sets to villages. To be able to reach the entire country, in 1974 Indonesia launched its communications satellite, Palapa (Sanskrit for unity).

TVRI was always hampered by a small budget, and the budget situation became even tighter in 1981, when the administration banned advertising from television. This was in reaction to the effect that advertising— western, urban, and consumer-oriented—was having on village life.

Indonesia's first commercial television station, Rajawali Citra Televisi Indonesia (RCTI), began operation in March, 1988, broadcasting first in Jakarta but later throughout the country. Of course, advertising was the very backbone of its existence. Corporate investments in the country and a huge consumer market with increasing amounts of money to spend put the greater part of their advertising budgets into television. Since the only legal source of news was still TVRI, RCTI and other private broadcasters created what they called "information programs" until the Broadcast law of 1996 legitimated their news programs. RCTI carried several daily programs, Morning Nuances , News at NoonThroughout Indonesia , and Evening Bulletin. These news programs, which had to complete for advertisers, carried higher entertainment values than TVRI.

Surya Citra Television (SCTV) opened a few years later, also based in Jakarta. Its news programs focused on national news, with international news accounting for about 10 percent. In August 1990, a third private station was licensed with the proviso that it focus on education. This station was Televisi Pendidikan Indonesia (TPI). It cooperated with TVRI extensively, with some of its advertising revenues going to TVRI. A fourth commercial station was licensed in 1993, Andalas Televisi (Anteve, ANTV). It attempted to profile itself in the areas of news, sports and music, and it reached a smaller audience than the others. Indosiar was the newcomer in 1995 and had to struggle for a viewer share. Owing to the fierce competition among these stations, there was quite a bit of similarity among them.

All five of Indonesia's private, Jakarta-based television stations—SCTV, RCTI, Indosiar, Anteve and TPI— had ties to the Suharto family. Despite the family ties, the new openness created bolder programming, even before Suharto stepped down. After that, stations offered investigative reporting and political talk shows that would have been unheard of in the New Order.

An all-news TV channel, Metro TV, began in Jakarta in November, 2000. Besides programming in Indonesian, it carried programs in Mandarin, reflecting the easing of restrictions on Chinese language and cultural media.

Electronic News Media

Before 1994, Internet access was limited to a very few universities, research institutions, and government offices. In late 1994, the first commercial Internet Service Provider (ISP), Indonet, was established, and by 1997 some 41 ISPs had been licensed, although all were not in service. The fast growth of ISPs was in fact largely due to government policies encouraging such growth.

The electronic news media were still in first flower when the opportunity came to test the genre in a specific way. In 1994, Tempo , a well-known newsmagazine, had its license to publish abruptly revoked by the government. Tempo had reported on a controversy concerning the purchase of used East German warships. No opportunity was given the magazine to defend itself. The news came as a shock, and although Tempo did win an appeal, the final ruling gave the magazine no hope of publishing again.

A little more than a year later, Tempo opened its electronic publication, TEMPO Interaktif . There was no official reaction from the government, except that the

Minister of Information, when asked about it in an interview, replied that individuals and organizations in Indonesia were free to set up a Web site to promote their own activities. Since the law did not require licensing of Internet news sites, what he said was quite true.

TEMPO Interaktif quickly became a popular site, becoming Indonesia's most-accessed Web publication. Enterprising students downloaded the magazine, copied it, and sold it in book form. And since a license was not needed for book publishing, Tempo responded by issuing the publication in book form every three months, a move welcomed by readers without Internet access.

No comprehensive survey exists to give a profile of the users of electronic news media. However, a survey carried out by TEMPO Interaktif identified the readership as overwhelmingly male and middle class, with the average age of readers at 27 years. The greatest number of them reported that they accessed the site from the office computer of a business. Tempo as a weekly newsmagazine reopened in October 1998, after the licensing requirement was eliminated.

Popular Web sites for news, some of them offering many services such as e-mail and shopping, were and . Established July 1, 1998, pioneered Indonesia's first "real time" electronic journalism, reporting news almost hourly. A year and a half later, thanks to foreign capital and savvy accumulation of advertising revenue, it began offering many services such as directories, chat rooms, and e-mail. At the same time, other foreign investors set up similar portals. When was launched, a large number of its considerable staff came from prestigious media companies, where they had made far less money. The impact

of large amounts of foreign capital remained a force to be watched.

Education and Training

Despite the importance of the media to social and political life in Indonesia, educational opportunities did not keep pace. No university listed anything like a school of journalism. Journalism education usually was offered in fakultas (schools) of social science and political studies. Journalism courses tended to focus on communications theory rather than on professional, practical training. But many journalists came through the ranks of a humanities education, particularly language and literature, and an unusually large number came from schools of agriculture.

Universities with respected departments in mass communication included Gadja Mada University in Yogyakarta, Hasanuddin University in Makassar, Diponogoro University in Semarang, and Pandjadjaran University in Bandung. Subsequently, some universities established schools of communication or communication science and offered degrees in komunikasi massa (mass communication) or publisistik (public relations). Of the state universities, only Padjadjaran University had a school of communication science, headed by Dr. Soleh Soemirat. The flagship state university, University of Indonesia in Jakarta, offered a graduate program in communications.

Two private universities offered a specialized school. Ibn Khaldun University in Jakarta had a School of Communication, headed by Hamid Suchas, and Islam Nusantara University in Bandung, had a School of Communication Science, headed by H. S. Insar.

Perhaps more important than universities in the training of journalists were specialized institutes. The process for introducing new curriculum at the university level was slow and cumbersome, but institutes could more quickly respond to need and serve people who were not of the usual university age.

Such an institute is The Institute for Studies in the Institut Studi Arus Informasi (Free Flow of Information, ISAI), founded in 1994 as a combination think tank and journalism training center. With Goenawan Mohamad as the pivotal figure, ISAI's offices in Jakarta became a gathering place for students and writers of all kinds. Meanwhile, the organization actively campaigned abroad to raise awareness of the situation of the press in Indonesia.

Other important training opportunities for journalists were the Dewan Pers Indonesi a (Indonesian Press Council), established in 1999, and the Dr. Soetomo Press Institute (LPDS). The director of LPDS, Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for journalism in 2000. Many of the leaders of the press organizations in the early 2000s were trained at LPDS. The institute also served as a think tank concerning issues of legal reform and professional ethics.

Internews, the U.S. government agency that worked throughout the world to provide assistance to journalists, provided training to more than 400 Indonesians working in broadcast media. Internews aimed to strengthen the role of the independent broadcast media by providing technical assistance; management, marketing, and advertising training; training in reporting on conflict; innovative programming and legal reform advocacy to its partner stations.


The strides made by the press after 1998 were tremendous, and there was a zeitgeist of energy and high expectations. The proliferation of the media at all levels— from a young man rigging up the wiring from a rooftop to operate his own radio station without registration to a sophisticated urban news show such as Metro TV—were exciting developments.

Dangers to the press and thus to the citizenry included the age-old practice of envelope journalism, threats and intimidation by disgruntled groups, misuse of corporate power, and a return to the pressures on the media by the government in the absence of constitutional guarantees.

Greater media penetration would encourage greater governmental responsiveness. Better journalist training would produce a more professional and, it was hoped, a more conscientious press. Public support for a free press and for freedom-of-information laws would be necessary.

Institutions that complement a responsible media system include political parties that call for accountability on the part of public servants, effective judicial systems, and self-regulatory press councils. If the media see it as their responsibility to keep the poor and marginalized people informed, to supplement school education, and to serve the interests of all peoples, they will make a vast contribution to the future of the Republic of Indonesia.


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Astraatmadja, Atmakusumah. "The Media During and After 'Reformasi'." Indonesia, Now and Beyond: The Indonesian Yearbook 2001 . Jakarta: Andrew Tanh Communication, 2001.

Cribb, Robert. Historical Dictionary of Indonesia. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1992.

Hefner, Robert. "Print Islam: Mass Media and Ideological Rivalries among Indonesian Muslims." Indonesia, 64 (October 1997): 77-104.

Herbert, Patricia, and Anthony Milner. South-East Asia: Languages and Literatures . Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989.

Heryanto, Ariel, and others. "The Industrialization of the Media in Democratizing Indonesia." Contemporary Southeast Asia, 23, No. 2 (August 2002): 327-55.

Mamora, Charlo, "Realities and Impact of the Economic Crisis." Indonesia, Now and Beyond: The Indonesian Yearbook 2001. Jakarta: Andrew Tanh Communication, 2001.

Neumann, A. Lin. Press, Power and Politics: Indonesia 2000. Arlington, VA: The Freedom Forum, 2000.

Ridwan, Saiful B. "From TEMPO to TEMPO Interactif : An Indonesian Media Scene Case Study," 1997. Available from .

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Solahudin, ed. Pro Gus Dur Runs Amok. Jakarta: AJI (Aliansa Jurnalis) Indonesia, 2001.

Toer, Pramoedya Ananta. This Earth of Mankind. Trans. Max Lane. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1990.

Linda Yoder

User Contributions:

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May 24, 2007 @ 3:03 am
Nice article. Could you help me get the latest updated figures for the media industry in Indonesia?
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Oct 23, 2008 @ 9:21 pm
I found this article very imformative.Especially the information concerning the transformation from tradtitional media outlets to more modern mediums, and the greater coverage that is achieved with these out lets.

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Nov 15, 2008 @ 9:09 am
thx lot for the's so helpful..^_^
i take a press subject in this semester..n have an assignment bot System Pers di Indonesia..also my individual paper in comparative politics subject, i take comparation between indonesia+USA media system and its influence to the politcs..

thx lot..
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Nov 26, 2008 @ 1:01 am
very informative and useful. but can anyone tell me where i can find a record of a major newspaper selling in the major cities in indonesia? like an index or or something?
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Dec 3, 2008 @ 6:06 am
i was good,helpful and understanding to know these things about media in your country.there are so many things about indonesia
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Sep 17, 2009 @ 7:19 pm
Dear Sir /Madam,

Under which ministery falls the commercial advertising code or is there another body which regulate.
How many state and commercial stations are now available in Indonesia and are there regulations in the different states.
Are there interactive networks to education.
Hope somebody could come back to me asap. have to set report on this subject.
With kind regards

Luuk van Breda
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Jan 2, 2015 @ 6:06 am
The article is good. But, don't forget. One of bigest and famous national news paper in Indonesia is MEDIA INDONESIA Daily Newspaper. Published in Jakarta, founded 1970.
ahmad taufik
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Apr 30, 2016 @ 7:19 pm
God Article to describe of Indonesian Press. But, now, more TV station occupied by corrupted and politics conglomerates, who related to last regime (Suharto regime)

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