Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Indonesian Newspapers Blossom Amid Doom and Gloom Elsewhere

WHILE one newspaper after another tumbles in the United States as people increasing turn to the Internet for their news, there are no such problems in Indonesia — at least not for the next 10 years — media expert David T. Hill said on Wednesday.
In an interview at the Jakarta Globe’s offices, Hill, a professor on Southeast Asian studies at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, said that low levels of Internet usage and poor Internet connections in developing countries like Indonesia portend a strong future for newspapers.
“Even with the establishment of Internet connections in rural areas, I don’t think people would go to the Internet cafe to access news,” Hill said.
He said that even though the number of people using the Internet was growing, such growth was mostly limited to the major cities, which represent only a small percentage of Indonesia’s population.
Hill said that the media’s role as a source of accurate information was vital to the upcoming elections.
“The media plays a crucial role in ensuring a good flow of information about the parties’ or candidates’ campaign promises,” Hill said.
Impartial political coverage, he said, is not merely a matter of allotting equal news coverage and advertising time to each political party. The media has an obligation to draw a clear line between political parties’ paid advertising and news coverage.
He understood that some members of the media would find it difficult to refuse the revenue generated by heavy political advertising, but cautioned that this should not influence editorial policy and news content.
Hill said that Indonesian media was among the freest in the region and had maintained the balance between press freedom and responsibility vital to a functioning democracy, lauding the strides made since the days of Suharto-era media control.
“But it’s not like the kind the responsibility during the New Order era when media was controlled by the government and responsibility meant not reporting news that could spark tension between people,” Hill said.
“I think in general, Indonesian media has been able to develop a working situation that offers healthy competition within the industry,” Hill said.

Source: Jakarta Globe

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