Tiara Lestari, Gus Dur and the Indonesian Press

In his post yesterday, fellow Jakarta blogger Jakartass touched on the subject of press freedom in Indonesia. He refers to a study conducted by Reporters Without Borders, which ranks Indonesia in 102nd out of 167 countries listed compared to last year when Indonesia was in 117th place.

But despite the improvement – which mainly reflects the fact that the once rebellious province of Aceh has now been opened up to journalists – Indonesia remains a dangerous place for the inquisitive mind.

Journalists who investigate corruption, for example, have a strange tendency to just go missing. Like this
poor chap.

And the authorities are still very wary of foreign journalists who they basically view as troublemakers. That’s why the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a ban on foreign journalists from entering conflict-prone areas, most notably Papua.

Terrorism is another sensitive topic. Only last week the Indonesian authorities suddenly pulled the plug on an Australian TV drama series about the 2002 Bali bombings:

Producers told the mostly Australian cast in Bali on Thursday the government had revoked their permit due to political and immigration sensitivities, actors for the drama series told AAP.
"The producers came in to the lunch room and said our permission has been withdrawn," said a NSW woman hired to portray an Australian police officer, while insisting on anonymity for fear of losing her role.

The move follows the second Bali bombings on October 1.

But what’s really strange in Indonesia is not just what makes the news, but what does not. The Indonesian media completely ignored Gus Dur’s recent allegations of military links to terrorist bombings. But why? Can you imagine if former US president Clinton said overseas that the CIA was implicated in a bombing in the States? It would be front-page news in every American paper.

And why has the Indonesian media totally ignored
Tiara Lestari? The media here loves sensational stories, and they don’t come much better than the rise to fame of a young Javanese lass who has posed naked for both Playboy and Penthouse. But the Indonesian media has been conspicuously quiet. Nothing except in good old uncensored cyberspace of course.

It seems as if some form of self-censorship is at play, just as it was during Suhato’s era.

As for me, I believe totally in press freedom. And that is why I am posting a scanned image from Tiara’s recent centerfold spread. Viva la press!


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