Bring Forward Democracy through Media Existence

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“Being in democracy, indeed, it`s the point that leads us to be proud as Indonesians. We accept democracy, we face issues inside the democracy itself and we encounter them consistently” – Arif Zulkifli, Editor in Chief, Tempo magazine – started our conversation in a convincing perspective.That day, Arif assured Sorotan on how political condition in Indonesia has never been better today compared to those old days.

The beginning of Indonesia`s independency within president Soekarno`s era was a time to opt a way, and Indonesians then chose democracy. Unfortunately, the choice had striven them vigorously. Started with parliamentary democracy that led to ups and downs in the government, in which Soekarno considered it as an understanding that would have never built a strong nation that coalesce. Afterwards, a position was obtained again that returned Indonesia into leadership democracy. The impact in this era was extra-ordinary, indeed, the ups and downs were more than just a struggle.

Soeharto`s era was coloured with indication of cold war and communism, which Indonesia became one important part on international movement to fight against communism. As Soekarno finished up his regime together with eradication of communism, Soeharto then applied what was so called `democracy`. Even though some said that democracy version by Soeharto could be a camouflage solely, but eventually it took up 32 years of the country`s journey.

Concrete Freedom & Comfort for Media
Indonesians had never thought on regional autonomy that could have been truly free and personalised. Cynically, some would argue towards disagreement that decentralization creates little kingdom in each province; which in certain part is true as there`s some excessive, but in general it has shown even more positive result. Centralization in the past led to serious criticism and decentralization has actually developed opportunities for the sake of each province`s improvement. Such regional autonomy implementation is totally fine and the negative impacts of it are solely cases. Nevertheless, Arif emphasized that freedom in Indonesia is now unstoppable, in which it never happened around 10 years ago. After reformation occurred, foundation and infrastructure of freedom had been shaped very well and it`s been one of the best things formed in the country.

One example has resulted in smaller scale on criminalization zone towards press; so there`s no more claim from a news or information source that goes directly to the police as a slander. Today there`s Memorandum of Understanding between the police and press commission; in which the police has to get through press commision first. Surprisingly, our society seems happy by bringing cases to press commission when they know that 80% of the incoming reports are media complaints won by the sources. Meaning a high success rate.

Indonesians media are no more frightened and confident without disobeying the ethic code. They even give influence for the public to be courageous. Endorsing people not to limit themselves in looking for information. In further, the role of technology through online news website and social media is becoming more effective as within short time a news can be released. It should be crucial consideration for someone thinking to do illegal actions as his deed will be published everywhere at a glance. It`s something that we have to be thankful.

“Today when an innocent person is intimidated, the story won`t take long to pop up online and on newspaper. Reactions are all in all places around, press conference is conducted to make a defence. Internal investigation follows and the accused one is sentenced. Even in few days to make a case goes public, it`s not absurd”

Freedom All the Way, Media Towards Corruption
Some would misunderstand in assuming that reformation conceives people to be more free to do corruption. But according to Arif, exemption and transparency are obviously able to hold corruption both in quantitative and qualitative way. In the past when everything was hidden, we even didn`t have any access to know and control; if we had the chance to be aware and took actions towards corruption, the media itself would be laid off.

Indonesia before reformation was full of questions as some big names were mentioned in doing a number of illegal practices that can be categorized into corruption. Not to mention some names that were able to take up a huge amount of money while at the same time impacted to certain companies getting collapsed. However, they all landed as rumours and many cases hadn`t been clarified yet until today. No one knew who got involved or played a part on major corruption cases. All the cases were never clear, no one understood the motives behind and there has been no answers to explain anything.

On the contrary, what happens now inside media work such as Tempo is marvellous; “Before public reveals a case, we are able to smell it first and wrote pieces on our publication. Once we appeared to open about corruption on beef import that grabbed attention as a ministry and some politicians were seemingly took parts; our media was reported to the press commission. People mocked us saying we released a news without strong root or evidence. Nevertheless, two years after in 2011, Indonesia received a fact that two names leading the beef import corruption case were arrested”, Arif exemplified.

So, the pieces written by two years ago that were produced with substances of journalism facts, obviously, needed quite long time to change them into legal facts. Here is the point that was impossible to be reached in the past by media.

“Indonesia has been onto some experiments, we`ve tried all paths. If it`s priced, it could be extremely expensive. No matter how we are in agony, we`ve gone through it all and indeed shaping a strong foundation. Our democracy is solid”

Freedom for Media to Shape Politics or Political Adaptability to Media?
Both work. Politics with its dependency on public opinion, considers media in playing its important role. But only in certain extents that media can be shaped because of politics or vice versa. Several media ownerships are by some names who have political importance, which form negative opinion in public, but the thing that won`t get influence is the independency of newsroom. It`s the keyword of freedom and its access can be managed.

Even though public in Indonesia can`t control that media ownership should belong to good people, but this reality can be solved with openess mechanism; namely, media pluralism. Here, it`s the people widely, readers and viewers, who can judge which one is right and wrong. It`s a free choice, but it`s still important to support good people to be in media business and get into the system. Well, the room to improve should always be open.

The Most Appropriate Formula for Indonesia`s Political System
Arif analyzed that there is no sole answer on the best formula for the country`s political system. We`ve never found an instant formula. One case that Indonesians years ago were worried about each province`s leadership that the human resources were provided by central government. It was the time when locals envied people appointed to lead one area; they questioned on Javanese who always became regent in Sumatra, as an example.

Then, the system was revised by having Pemilukada (local or provincial elections), but it eventually turned out to experience money politics. Every year there are 400 Pemilukada and it spends a huge amount of money; although we thought that it`s the most democratic way. Nevertheless, elected new president Joko Widodo with his vice president Jusuf Kalla mentioned that we can`t avoid Pemilukada, but cost can be reduced by conducting it together at one time within manageable period. Meaning that on every democracy pathway, there`s always solution to get improved.

“President of Indonesia should be someone who can guarantee that democracy mechanism isn`t going to meet a setback. A good president is to advance our democracy”

Anisa Kirana | 2014 | Published on SOROTAN Magazine – column: Headline Story (edition III/2014) | Source: Arif Zulkifli | Photo credit: google


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