After decades of suppression, which included the outright ban of one of its biggest news outlets, Indonesian media is flourishing.
Journalists Simon Petrus Nilli and Sahat Simatupang are part of the budding media industry in Indonesia, and they stopped in Las Vegas as part of a trip through the United States to study how different news organizations and outlets operate, cover corruption, and interact with public and private agencies.
Former Indonesian President Suharto banned the publishing of Tempo, which has a circulation of more than 300,000, saying the news magazine was a threat to the country’s stability. That changed when Suharto, who ruled Indonesia for more than 30 years, resigned amid intense public and militaristic pressure in May 1998.
Simatupang, a correspondent for Tempo, said through a translator while speaking to the Review-Journal editorial board Tuesday that since the fall of Suharto, the media has been “sprouting.”
And while the media has grown, some are worried that it’s still too influenced by government, which is especially concerning with the upcoming July 9 presidential election in Indonesia.
“What really worries us right now is that many of the media are partisan in political matters,” Simatupang said.
During their Las Vegas visit, the journalists also met with the Metropolitan Police Department to discuss corruption prevention and media relations and with a law office to better understand gaming law.
Simatupang said relations with government agencies in Indonesia, such as the police forces, are still strained. Police often provide incorrect information or outright lie to media about events, which makes it difficult to provide facts to the public and makes watchdog journalism much more important, Simatupang said.
And while the role of the media is similar between the two countries, the consumption of news varies greatly from Indonesia to Las Vegas, Nilli said.
Nilli, the editor in chief of the daily paper Timor Express in the East Nusa Tenggara Province, said print media consumption is growing in the country, a stark contrast to the trend across the United States.
Roughly 200 people will read a single copy of Tempo, with people often reading copies inside a restaurant or a store, according to Simatupang, compared to just three for every paper here in Las Vegas.
Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4638. Find him on Twitter: @ColtonLochhead.