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Indonesian Media Braces for Election Season

Indonesian Media Braces for Election Season

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Indonesia is facing a critical moment politically as the archipelago country braces for simultaneous elections across 171 regions next June, culminating in a presidential election in April 2019.

By Lina Nursanty & Adi Marsiela, Co-Chairs, Media Freedom Committee Indonesia


On 24th April, 13 media leaders met with representatives from the Indonesian Press Council and the Election Commission to discuss issues of concern for the media ahead of this upcoming election period, as a side event to the WAN-IFRA Publish Asia conference being held in Bali. 

They all agreed that media should be independent and professional in reporting the election. The Press Law and the code of conduct, which represent the values of freedom of expression and the right of public access to information, should be the rules to follow for everyone. 

However, some of the regulations on political advertising have left media unhappy - politically as well as on the business side of operations. Media leaders condemned the new election law number 7/2017 which sets limitations on political candidates in terms of advertising their candidacy in mass media (on verified or mainstream media). Political advertising has been one of the biggest sources of revenue, especially for print media, both at the local and national levels. With such limitations, media no longer receive the kind of money from political advertising they’ve come to expect. 

Media leaders argued that the regulation is unfair and that in the long run, it might put democracy in danger. The limitations such as they are include a very short period for authorised political advertising, while candidates are forbidden to advertise individually because all advertising is to be covered by the government using the national budget. Media leaders said that, as media verified by the Press Council, they have become the objects of tight regulation, while the government has done little towards curtailing unverified media - including monitoring content, which can be full of hoaxes. 

"I think this law places too much suspicion on us, verified and mainstream media,” said Endah Saptorini from “We understand the concept of the firewall in the newsroom. But how about fake and unverified media out there that are more numerous than us and are becoming increasingly influential, especially social media? How should the law apply to them?"

While the government has forbidden candidates to advertise their candidacy in mainstream and verified media, at the same time candidates campaign and advertise themselves through social and online media that are not verified according to the Press Council’s regulations. 

"In Tondano, North Celebes, there are two mayors who were re-elected even though both have been proven guilty by the courts. It happened because media were unable to inform people about the good or the bad candidates in the election, and it might put democracy in danger," said Abdul Rokim from Jawa Pos. 

The discussion was held as part of WAN-IFRA’s Strengthening Media and Society (SMS) programme. Alongside the 13 media leaders, WAN-IFRA’s Media Freedom Committee Indonesia also invited two sources; Pramono Ubaid from the National Election Commission and Ahmad Jauhar from the Press Council. 

The meeting saw a frank an open exchange of opinions. All present agreed that the issue regarding advertising has had little exposure – it was felt that most media professionals remain quiet when it comes to speaking out about their obstacles regarding political advertising regulations. 

At the end of the meeting, media leaders agreed to take the issue to the next level, with suggestions made to see the new laws through to judicial review in front of the Constitutional Court.


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2018-04-30 14:00

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In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...