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EMERALDY CHATRA

1
INDONESIAN PRESS
AND THE GOVERNMENT’S CONTROL

By Emeraldy Chatra


Abstract

Kejatuhan rezim Suharto tidak lepas dari kekeliruannya dalam
memandan ke!e!asan pers" karena denan mene!iri ke!e!asan pers
rezim Suharto menjadi kehilanan kontrol# Tulisan ini mem!ahas
kekeliruan$kekeliruan pandanan rezim ts!# serta implikasinya terhadap
!er!aai penyele%enan dan derajat kejujuran masyarakat#

Introduction
During the protest of Indonesian university students
addressed to the regime of Suharto (or the New Order Regime)
etween !ar"h and !ay #$$%& the ministry of information Dr 'lwi
Dahlan instru"ted any private television to rely two news programs
road"ast y ()RI& a state owned television station* (he first one
was "alled Info +agi& and another one was Berita #,* (he Info
+agi was road"ast from -.// to -.0/ a*m*, while the Berita #,
was at 1.// p*m* 's a result& all Indonesian television presented
same news at same moment*
(hose news programs all together were "alled ()2+ool* (he
()RI produ"ed the ()2+ool& as stated y 'lwi Dahlan& in a "o2
operation with reporters of private televisions su"h as Surya Citra
(elevisi (SC())& Ra3awali Citra (elevisi Indonesia (RC(I)& 'N
(eve& and Indosiar* 4owever& the news presenters were from the
()RI and the news presentation style was su3e"t to the ()RI5s
EMERALDY CHATRA
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stiff and monotonous appearan"e* (he private televisions6
reporters 3ust "ontriute a few numers of report to the
programmes*
'lwi Dahlan5s poli"y raises many "riti"isms from 3ournalists
and television audien"es* (he +uli" Relations !anager of the
SC() Dr Edward Depari evaluates the programs as a new form of
Indonesian government "ontrol over the press*
#
Nevertheless&
a""ording to Edward Depari& the ()2+ool did not rea7 the law
e"ause (he Broad"asting '"t #$$8 allows the ()RI re9uires
private televisions to rely its programs* (he Indonesian Institute of
:egal 'id ;oundation (<:B4I) stated in its press relations that the
poli"y will ring aout self2"ensorship and shareholder6s
intervention toward editorial poli"ies& in"luding firing some
television 3ournalists who e=posed the military violen"e*
1

Suharto stepped down on 1# !ay& and 'lwi Dahlan lost his
authority* (he Info +agi disappears from private televisions ever
sin"e* (he Berita #, is still on air& ut it is not relied y private
televisions any longer* (hat "hange indi"ates the de"rease of a
regime5s "ontrol over the press& ut it "an not e regarded as the
eginning era of the freedom of press in Indonesia* It is e"ause
the "hange 3ust happened at the level of offi"ial poli"y& while
legislation (i*e* '"t no* 1#>#$%1 "on"erning the Basi" +rin"iples of
the +ress) that allows the su"h a poli"y is still maintained* (hus&
without "hanging the legislation and its asi" assumption on press

&
'nter(ie% %ith a )orein radio announ*er" ++ May &,,-
+
.T/ 0ool 0er!uruk Citra 'ndonesia1" Singgalang" +2 May &,,-
EMERALDY CHATRA
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roles& 'lwi Dahlan5s poli"y2li7e might e produ"ed again y the
ne=t regime*
(he ()2+ool story is only a starting point for a wide2range
dis"ussion of Indonesian press* (he main purpose of this essay is
to e=amine the politi"al a"7ground of the miserale "ondition of
press freedom in Indonesia& parti"ularly under Suharto5s
di"tatorship* Besides& the essay analyses the various impa"ts of
the regime5s poli"y in aout 1/ years to the press* 's I am writing
this essay& Suharto 3ust #1 days retired* (herefore& I "annot argue
mu"h on the poli"ies and treatments of the su""essor to the
press*

Th Victi! o" Nationa# Stabi#it$
's Suharto "ame to the offi"e in #$--& he showed his
personal outloo7 for the freedom of press y "losing some +?I
(the Communist +arty of Indonesia) affiliated newspapers su"h as
4arian Ra7yat& Bintang (imur& and @arta Bha7ti* (he vast
ma3ority of Indonesian people supported su"h an a"tion due to
their hatred to "ommunism* Suharto regime5s poli"y to an
"ommunism oriented press was in line with its strong effort to
erase "ommunism in Indonesia*
;or Suharto& "ontrol over press seems to e a strategi" point
to "ontrol people5s mind* 4e stated in the 1
nd
Seminar of Infantry
(Seminar Angkatan Darat II)&
In developing the New Order& it should e realiAed that easy to get rid
of a tyrant or to destroy its "on"entration "amp rather than destroying
and eliminating dreams or ideas that produ"e and give power for it*
(he physi"al vi"tory on it is asolutely important& ut it is not enough*
EMERALDY CHATRA
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Be"ause we destroy dreams& while that we must win is also
dreams***('idin and :opa& #$-$.0//)*

Suharto5s statements point that he was not only rea"t
strongly into tangile a"tions of his politi"al rivals& ut he was also
tend to re3e"t the differen"es of ideas* In #$%,& he arrived on the
top of his desire to "ontrol people5s ideas as he de"reed all so"io2
politi"al organisations& in"luding "ivilian politi"al parties& to de"lare
+an"asila as their sole ideology* 4e strongly eager everyody
su3e"t to his ideas and applies in daily life terms that he li7es
su"h as azas tunggal (sole ideology)& pembangunan
(development)& UUD 1945 (#$,B Constitution)& stabilitas nasional
(national staility) or pers bebas dan bertanggung jawab (free and
responsile press)* ;or many state6s offi"ials& repeating those
terms in their spee"hes symolises their self2identifi"ation even
loyalty to Suharto5s regime*
Controlling national press or information flows is a way to
"ontrol people5s ideas "onsistently pra"tised y the regime* (he
"ontrol poli"y was not only aimed to prevent the spread of
"ommunism& ut also for disagreement or "riti"ism to Suharto5s
and his family5s a"tions
0
* +ress reports aout riots or military
violen"e& for instan"e& "ould e regarded as efforts to spread
hatred out to Suharto or his regime and to sha7e national staility*
In #$8,& Suharto5s regime "losed eleven newspapers and a
magaAine e"ause they reported a ig riot in Ca7arta "alled Malari

3
't has !roadly kno%n that all Suharto1s sons and dauhters are por*h and *ontrol many kinds o)
industries and lare s*ale de(elopment a*ti(ities# His son Hutomo Mandalaputra" )or instan*e" o!tained
monopoly riht to import South Korean *ars and *lo(e distri!ution# His elder dauhter" Siti Hardianti
Rukmana" is )amous )or her hih%ay proje*ts#
EMERALDY CHATRA
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((he ;ifteen Canuary Disaster) ('tma7usumah& #$%#)* Ideas
ehind the ()2+ool seem not too different with those used y the
regime in #$8,*
(he issue of national staility was predominantly employed
y the regime to oppress opposition movements& in"luding
disoedien"e press* (he term of national staility refers to the
Trilogi embangunan (the asi" strategy of Indonesian
development) whi"h "ontains three elements. growth& distriution
and staility* Suharto5s regime strongly argues that national
staility must e 7ept as a prime "ondition in running the
development wheel* (hus& the government must eliminate any
7ind of Ddestru"tive a"tions5 toward the development*
4owever& the regime monopolised and unilaterally defined
the meaning of Ddestru"tive a"tions5 and Dnational staility5* 's a
result& honest and fran7ly "riti"isms addressed to !eluarga
"endana (Suharto5s family) ehaviour would not e a""epted as
D"onstru"tive "riti"ism5* In "ontrast& it would e regarded as
Ddestru"tive a"tions5 or Dharming the national staility5& whereas he
and his family had een puli"ly 7nown to "ommit mis"ellaneous
"ollusion and utilise politi"al power for their personal e"onomi"
purposes (see )ati7iotis& #$$0& S"hwarA& #$$,)*
In responding the regime5s negative outloo7 on "riti"isms
and differen"e ideas& Indonesian press developed prudent attitude
and self2"ensorship* (he press must& li7e or disli7e& to show its
a""ommodative manner toward Suharto5s poli"ies or his "hildren5s
ehaviour in using "ruelly their father5s status* '""ordingly& the
EMERALDY CHATRA
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press positioned themselves no more than message "ouriers for
Suharto or his "hildren5s usiness a"tivities& even some of them
seemed to e "ampaign media of the family*

Mdia and Mani%u#ation
!anipulation of fa"ts may e done y the press unhappily&
ut they must did it to save themselves* In a su"h a "ir"umstan"e&
oviously& mass media "ould not e e=pe"ted to draw events or
reality as a""urate as possile* !any fa"ts and opinions must e
hidden for those were disadvantage the government* Some
rilliant 3ournalists otained many saleale ut Ddangerous5 stories
and they had to only 7eep it in their po"7et& or they individually
used silently the information for ma7ing money
,
*
4iding fa"ts or dishonesty was not only pra"ti"ed y
3ournalists* 'nyody who spo7e to puli" should "hange some
parti"ular words or use euphemism to avoid "ontrast appearan"es
with the mainstream (read. the regime preferen"es)* ;or e=ample&
the regime did not li7e to use kelaparan word for e=pressing a
"ondition of food s"ar"ity or starvation& e"ause the word pointed
the "arelessness of the government apparatuses or Dundermined
the "harisma of the government5* (hey li7e to pronoun"e the su"h
a "ondition as rawan pangan& a phrase that a"tually fails to
appropriately draw the reality* (o follow and to please the

2
't has !een %idely kno%n that some 'ndonesian journalists use improperly their pro)ession to et .!la*k1
money# Some o) them do it )or additional re(enue !e*ause they earn (ery lo% salary )rom their
employers# The operation mode o) them is mainly !y askin )or .transportation )unds1 to their ne%s
su!je*ts %hom e4pe*tin the ne%s !ein pu!lished or unpu!lished# .The transportation )und1 is usually
su!mitted %ithin an en(elope" so it is then *alled as .an en(elope money1 or uang amplop#
EMERALDY CHATRA
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government& many newspapers or individual spea7ers used or
9uoted the terms*
B
)ati7iotis says&
' style of writing has developed whi"h a""ommodates the
estalishment5s re3e"tion of dire"t "riti"ism of its poli"ies and pra"ti"es*
(hus the report on the prolem of development in a "ertain provin"e is
more li7ely to lead off with the line*** ()ati7iotis& #$$0. #/8)*

(o put the press as a mirror of a so"iety& the press5s soft
rea"tions to the government5s pressures were disadvantageous to
the people5s politi"al morality& even spread out an=iety* It e"ause
the press failed to refle"t the real situation of the state or the
regime5s performan"e as well as to interpret the situation in a truth
"onte=t* (he audien"es ultimately lost their moral guidan"e&
moreover as the press often e=posed the intelle"tual groups5 or
religious leaders5 supports to the government& ut hid their strong
"riti"isms* 's a result& the press "reated an image that the regime
was too powerful& so it was impossile to e overthrown* !ost of
the people then preferred to oey or hiding their hatred to the
regime rather than to oppose it openly*
Dishonesty then developed wider than for spea7ing and
e=pressing politi"al aspirations* Corruption& a ehaviour rooted
from hypo"risy and dishonesty was also amaAingly develop. it
happened at any level of the New Orders5 ureau"ra"y* Culture of
"orruption develops in line with the asen"e of freedom to "onvey
the truth* S"hwarA says in his oo7&
+etty "orruption is an unfortunate fa"t of life in Indonesia* !ore
serious& however& are the mu"h larger under2the2tale payment made

5
Sin*e Suharto %as in o))i*e" hypo*risy had !een %idely spread amonst the people" e(en up to the
parliament mem!ers# 6one o) the mem!ers !ra(ed to *riti*ise Suharto1s poli*ies or his )amily1s
*orrupted !eha(iour# Con(ersely" they o)ten praised the president" althouh the pu!li* !e*ame annoyed
listenin their statements#
EMERALDY CHATRA
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y "ompanies to senior offi"ials to win ma3or government "ontra"ts*
Or& the sums that foreign and domesti" "ompanies pay to politi"ally
well2"onne"ted private usinessmen who otain "ontra"ts on their
ehalf* (his "an involve a straight payment of free e9uity in a 3oin
venture "ompany (S"hwarA& #$$,. 0-)*

4owever& Suharto did not a"7nowledge the "orruption as the
produ"t of "orrupt mind* It is the result of e"onomi" pressure*
S"hwarA 9uotes Suharto&
DEventually& when e"onomi" development has gone so fat as to
produ"e a good overall standard of living& government employees will
re"eive ade9uate salaries and have no reason to pra"ti"e "orruption*
EButF no "orrupt a"t**********even under the prete=t of helping people& "an
e 3ustified5(S"hwarA& #$$,. 0-)*

Road to Ca%ita#istic Prss in th N& Ordr R'i!
'lthough Suharto5s regime limits the freedom of Indonesian
press& the +ress '"t #$%1 produ"ed y the regime endorses the
rise of "apitalisti" press in the "ountry* Indeed& the '"t aolishes
"ensorship and interminale "losure as formal "ontrol me"hanism
of the press "ontents
-
& ut re9uests anyone who wants to pulish
press to get a SIG++ (the +ermission :etter for +ress +ulishing
Enterprise) from the government ('rti"le No* #& "lause No* #0)*
(he SIG++ is purposed to administratively regulate the press
organisation and management* (herefore it is related to the
minimum share elong to the pulisher& its possessive share
"omposition& laour relations& an7 guarantee& et"* (he
administrative regulations re9uest a minimum "apital for any press

7
8ormally" the o(ernment had a*ted in a**ordan*e %ith the A*t# Ho%e(er" the authorised o))i*ials
employed an in)ormal me*hanism *alled lembaga telepon# Here the o))i*ials *alled the *hie) editors to
appeal or hal)$)or*e him to stop pu!lishin sensiti(e or *ontro(ersial ne%s# Yunus Yos)iah" the
'n)ormation Minister o) Ha!i!i1s reime then )or!ids the o))i*ials o) the Ministry o) 'n)ormation to pra*ti*e
EMERALDY CHATRA
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enterprises& therefore only ri"h investors "an estalish the press
"ompany* (he SIG++ fa"ilitates ri"h investors freely enter to press
usiness*
's a newspaper reports a news annoying the government& it
may easily lose its legal right to "ontinue its operation due to the
government annuls the SIG++ without "ourt verdi"t* (he su"h a
punishment had een applied to some news magaAines su"h as
Tempo and #ditor and some newspapers*
(he SIG++ then endorses the press enterprises to develop
as money ma7ing ma"hines only* (he "apitalist press "ondu"ts
very "arefully& avoiding ris7s y minimising "ontroversial issues&
and pra"tising self2"ensorship e"ause the press investors were
afraid of the SIG++ "an"ellation* 's a result& the 3ournalists lose
their real fun"tion as a wat"hdog for the government& and the
investors treat them no more than professionals even normal
laours*
Besides& the SIG++ was employed as a strategi" point of
Suharto5s family or his "ronies to "ontrol the press enterprises* (o
them& having press enterprises was not only advantageous in
terms of politi"s& ut also e"onomy sin"e the press "an e utilised
easily to "reate positive images on their usiness performan"e*

Prssur to Chan's
Hreat pressures given y Indonesian students pressed
Suharto to step down at 1# !ay #$$%* (he vi"e president

the su*h a mode o) *ontrol# See .Menpen Laran 9udaya Telepon ke Media Massa1" Media Indonesia"
EMERALDY CHATRA
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Baharuddin Cusuf 4aii appointed y Suharto to repla"e his
presidential position* (he new president leads a "ainet "alled
!abinet $e%ormasi embangunan (Reformed Development
Cainet)& where !uhammad <unus <osfiah is "harged as the
!inister of Information*
(he new regime appears with a more populist fa"e that
produ"es some new regulations to serve people5s demand for a
more demo"rati" life atmosphere. any "itiAen frees to found
politi"al party& oppressed poli"ies on university student5s right to
develop its organisation was aolished& releasing politi"al
opponents from prison and so on* ;or Indonesian mass media&
the most important poli"y is on the "hange of SIG++ regulation&
even though it is still unsatisfa"tory*
(he !inister <osfiah produ"es a simpler regulation on
SIG++& mainly on the te"hni"al pro"edure of proposing the
permission letter* Some re9uirements that de"rease people6s
a""ess to media produ"tion are erased& so y the new regulation
the element of "apital and re"ommendation from authorised
3ournalist organisation (+@I) are no longer important* In
"on"lusion& <osfiah "ut down ureau"rati" pro"edures that may
"ause politi"al and e"onomi" dis"riminations in issuing the
li"ense*
4owever& <osfiah5s poli"ies do not "hange fundamentally
the government5s osolete assumptions on press. press is
dangerous and anar"hi" potential& so the government must "ontrol

&- May &,,-" p#7
EMERALDY CHATRA
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the press organisation* In other word& the new regulation on the
SIG++ e=presses that the 4aii5s regime does not sustantially
"hange the previous regime5s point of view on press* (he
assumption is erroneous sin"e the New Order regime was
paralysed y students5 movements& not y the press (Chatra&
#$%%)* Indonesian press5 "ontriutions for the movement were
meaningful& ut were not as mu"h as that of alternative
"ommuni"ation media su"h as internet and underground
pamphlets*

Conc#usion
(he history of Indonesian press is a history of suppression
and the government interventions* Oppression to the press& in
fa"t& is not only "hara"terise the New Order or Suharto5s regime&
ut also that of its prede"essor* 't the end of his regime& Su7arno
did the same thing (Smith& #$%0)*
Oppression to the press results in the press "an not "ontrol
the government or telling the truth& ut in "ontrast& it let the
government to negle"t its wea7nesses and to fertilise osessions
among the people* By limiting the press freedom& the Suharto5s
regime distra"ted its refle"tive mirror* !oreover& the regime
so"ialised the people to marginalise the value of transparen"y and
honesty& and let the people to 7eep hypo"risy traits*
Reformation& a word that had een used effe"tively to for"e
Suharto stepped down& indi"ates a new spirit to leave anything
disadvantages the nation& to deeply ury all types of oppressive
EMERALDY CHATRA
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a"tions& in"luding that was addressed to the press& in history*
4owever& the freedom given y BC 4aii5s regime for the
Indonesian press "an e regarded as a short time politi"al
movement only& e"ause the regime is still maintain the '"t no*
1#>#$%1* 's mentioned aove& the a"t is the sole referen"e and a
legal ase for the government in intervening the press*




R"rncs

'idin& '*I* and B* :opa (#$-%)& &a'a(a !omunisme& Bulan
Bintang& Ca7arta
'nonimous (#$$%)& D() +ool +eruru7 Citra Indonesia5&
Singgalang& 1, !ay
222222222222222(#$$%)& D!enpen :arang Budaya (elepon 7e !edia
!assa5& Media Indonesia& #% !ay
'tma7usumah (#$%#)& !ebebasan ers an Arus In%ormasi di
Indonesia& :S+& Ca7arta
Chatra& E (#$$%) & SIG++ Seharusnya Dihapus& Indonesia &aru
No* 1 Culy
S"hwarA& '* (#$$,)& A )ation in *aiting+ Indonesia in t'e 199,s&
@estview +ress& Boulder2San ;ran"is"o
Smith& C*C* (#$%0) Sejara' embreidelan ers Indonesia& Hrafiti
+ress& Ca7arta
)ati7iotis& !* R* C* (#$$0)& Indonesian oliti-s under Su'arto+
.rder/ De0elopment and ressure %or "'ange& Routledge&
:ondon2New <or7