When Water and Political Power Intersect

Harsono, Andreas
March 2005
Nieman Reports;Spring2005, Vol. 59 Issue 1, p45
This article relates the approach used by the author to report the story of water privatization in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2001. According to the author, when he got an assignment in late 2001 to report on the privatization of Jakarta's water company, he knew that it was going to be difficult, requiring a lot of research and interviews. But what he could not have imagined then is that he'd be a witness to the deterioration of Indonesia's two largest companies, which were closely related to Indonesian strongman General Suharto. When he began his reporting, Sigit Harjojudanto, Suharto's eldest son, who collaborated with the British-German firm RWE Thames Water to privatize Jakarta's PAM Jaya water company, declined to respond to the author's faxed messages and phone calls. It turned out that his office was almost deserted. Office workers told the author that he rarely visited the office after his father's forced resignation from the presidency in May 1998. The author says that he tried hard to use not a single anonymous source. A number of times he patiently briefed his sources about what being an anonymous source meant to them and to readers.


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