Elements of a Free Press in Indonesia

Kovach, Bill; Fiore, Lois
March 2004
Nieman Reports;Spring2004, Vol. 58 Issue 1, p86
This article offers insights about the elements of a free press in Indonesia. In the book The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect, two of the elements discussed--a discipline of verification and journalism's first obligation is to the truth--were of most interest to the journalists in the U.S. One element prompted skepticism, and the other generated confusion. Certainly, there were insistent challenges about the way journalists in the U.S. perform. The challenges focused on coverage of the Middle East. The Indonesian press may be a bit more unruly and more tenuous but with the same penchant for soft pornography, gossip and rumor. And like several countries in Latin America, they are still affected by envelope journalism, a practice of dictatorial governments that has spread to commercial interests to reward journalist for favorable treatment. In turn, this practice allows press owners to pay scandalous low wages. Another trend is the fear of Indonesia's political leadership of too much freedom. As the country moves toward its first free election of a president, there are renewed efforts to return more government control. Generally, the future of a free press and freedom of expression in Indonesia are still uncertain.


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