A press freedom index for Indonesia

With the support of Free Press Unlimited partner PPMN developed its own press freedom index for Indonesia. It now uses it to identify unacceptable media practices and make local governments aware of the importance of a free, independent press.

Indonesia stands at 124th place in the World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). That means the country scores even worse in the area of press freedom than Afghanistan. The cause? Misconduct like violence against local journalists, for example in Papua, and biased reporting in media owned by business tycoons with political interests.

But the (lack of) press freedom is not the same everywhere in the vast area of Indonesia and the causes can also vary greatly per region. To get a better idea of that, and to encourage local governments to take action, in 2016 PPMN (Indonesian Association for Media Development) initiated the first Indonesian press freedom index that reports at national and provincial level. PPMN did this in collaboration with the Press Council of Indonesia and with financial support and coaching from Free Press Unlimited.

A useful instrument

The index quickly grew into an instrument that can improve the media climate in Indonesia. ‘The index helps us to monitor and improve press freedom, and holds up a mirror to us as it were,’ says PPMN Director Eni Mulia. For example, it examines the extent to which vulnerable groups have access to media, whether or not the government criminalises and intimidates media, and whether the freedom exists to start a media company.

In 2018 the index was used in the run-up to the elections. ‘We chose two provinces, East and West Java, where media often do not work independently because they are owned by business people with political interests,’ says Mulia. In both provinces, PPMN organised a meeting in which they explained the press freedom index to about 170 local politicians, policy makers, academics, journalists and police officers.

How to do a professional job

In the sessions, the PPMN explained how a professional press does its work and that does not include journalists changing their reporting for payment. ‘It is quite normal for local governments to maintain a budget to pay media… There are so many bad practices that are regarded as normal,’ says Mulia. At the end of the workshops, the participants signed a statement in which they promised to monitor professional reporting of the elections. Mulia believes this is an important step. ‘Not everyone in Indonesian society, and specifically the government, understands that press freedom is important and that it should play a major role in promoting that.’

Also in the coming year, PPMN is organising workshops to continue to raise this awareness. And that’s a good thing too: with the upcoming presidential elections, it is even more important that Indonesians get the independent and unbiased reporting they deserve.

Since: 2014
Donor: Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Contribution: € 137,000

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