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The Indonesian press in the era of keterbukaan : a force for democratisation?

posted on 08.02.2017, 05:05 by Hanazaki, Yasuo
After developing through the stages of being a tool of the nationalist cause and being tied to political parties, the evolution of Indonesian press was stalled by the political power of the New Order. As the nation's economy was boosted by the New Order, improvements in living standards and education expanded newspaper readership, and newspapers increased their financial status and broke away from dependence on political parties. Instead, Indonesian newspapers were put under restrictive control by the New Order Government. This stalled the further evolution of the press into a fully fledged news industry, on the path trodden by the Western press. The mechanism which stalled the evolution of the press was government press control through the Press Publishing Business Licence (SIUPP). Under this system, the journalistic performance of the Indonesian press declined. On the other hand, Indonesia's economic development has activated investment in the media from other fields of industry. This new phenomenon suggests a possibility: media owners may oppose the government's restrictions on the media industry in order to seek greater opportunities for business. Meanwhile, keterbukaan or the so-called "openness policy" in the early 1990s vitalised Indonesian journalism. Keterbukaan was a product of gradually proceeding structural change inside the regime, and, in a broader sense, it was a fault line caused by regime fatigue and newly emerging civil energy. Riding the wave of keterbukaan, some unprecedented scenes occurred during this period, such as the birth and miraculous growth of a weekly political tabloid. The press banning in 1994 and subsequent developments brought about several important changes in Indonesian politics and society. The banning was deplored by certain armed forces leaders. Moreover, the banned weekly, Tempo, was encouraged by some army members to file a lawsuit against the Information Minister. After the banning, despite a mood of great fear, a few journalists came to take a clearer stance against the press policy of the regime, and established a new journalists' association, which opposed the Information Department and the Indonesian Journalists' Association (PWI). Their cause was supported more strongly than ever by other elements in society. In 1995, two courts of law judged that the revocation of Tempo's SIUPP was unlawful and ordered the Information Minister to return the licence to the magazine. lndonesia's economic growth and experience of keterbukaan have started to change the consciousness of members of Indonesian civil society. Then they have helped the press resume its stalled evolution towards a fully fledged commercial news industry and urged the press to commit itself to the nation's democratisation as well, unshackling the press from political bondage.


Principal supervisor

Barbara Hatley

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Asian Languages and Studies


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts