Wimar on Media Coverage of Bali Bomb Commemoration
17 October 2012
Radio Atinal Australia intgerviw
transcribed by Kiti Pangemanan
Richard Aedy and WW
Well as you’ve been hearing, it is 10 years since the Bali bombings killed 202 people and injured 240 more. Because 88 of the people killed were Australian, our news media has reported this anniversary with some vigour. There are special TV programs, live crosses to Bali, and countless articles and stories.
But it’s worth remembering that 38 of the dead were Indonesian. The terrorists were Indonesian. It happened in Indonesia. So how is the media in our neighbour approaching today? Wimar Witoelar a well-known Jakarta-based commentator, says there’s been extensive coverage.
I just turned off TV set, which covers today’s events and recollection from the survivors of the Bali bomb and other acts of terror. And that’s just one of many television stations. And the newspapers give extensive coverage, breakdown, personalities, not much on analysis but more the human side of the story.
So telling the stories I guess of the, what, nearly 40 Indonesians that died in the bombings?
Thirty-eight in the Bali bombing and also many many more in the other bombings. The Bali bombing is the biggest, is the most serious heinous act of terror in our history, yet it is not the only one so there are several more before and after that which affected only Indonesians. They did not receive the same publicity but they are just as tragic.
Yes indeed. This anniversary is being used by commentators, people who write opinion pieces and editorials, to revisit the issue of terror in Indonesia more widely.
Exactly. Well people are seeking closure but it’s very difficult to imagine that but at least they will provide us to take a more critical look and also to have the correct attitudes towards conducts which would be fertile ground for terror: maybe lack of government supervision, extremism in public acts. Nobody actually admits or defends terror but there are people who are militant and we feel that that is a dangerous starting point for these acts to recur.
What about the terror groups themselves? Are they quoted or do they ever get interviewed in the mainstream media?
Only when they are arrested sometimes. But not…they actively remain in hiding I suppose. Nobody has a platform if that’s the question. No terrorist has a platform in the media.
That was what I was wondering—if there was a specialist..
No, no, no.
parts of the media that were more sympathetic or..
No. There is no glamorisation of terrorism, except in the news itself. So people who are here, who live in Indonesia or know the situation, know that everybody despises terrorism.
The other thing I’m wondering about is, for us in Australia this terrible anniversary gives us a chance to take stock of our relationship between Australia and Indonesia and I think there’s an awareness that it’s better than it was but that we still have to make it better. What about from your country’s perspective?
Well certainly, I mean, I would hate to have to look at the bright side of this tragedy but the fact that your prime minister and our president are now in Bali right now and tourists are coming in and for the last few years there has been no acrimony. There’s been more a sympathy for Australians and I hope Australians understand Indonesians better. That there has never been a real problem between the mainstream people of Indonesia and Australia. There have been government spats, there have been groups, ignorant groups, which try to undermine the relationships but as far as the people are concerned, we are two friendly nations.
Yes, but sometimes some of the elements of our media have reported things in, I suppose, the most sensational style to try and kind of, amp things up, and make the most of misunderstandings because it sells newspapers. Do you get that there too?
Not as much on this issue; we get that when it comes to internal skirmishing among politicians—people taking pot-shots at the president, political parties against political parties—but on terrorism, it’s more or less a united front. And the media here I think is much more unruly than in Australia today. So it’s a happy observation that I make, that none of the media are exploiting terrorism to sell newspapers.
I am very encouraged when you say unruly. But what do you mean exactly?
Well, some of the stations lie outright when they’re reporting on acts that involve corruption, when the corruption is conducted by the station owners. And they’re unruly when they condemn, like, say, our finance minister Sri Mulyani when her only crime was to try to get the improprieties out of the scene. So newspapers are not always on the good side, nor are television stations. In fact, I think the, what I say, bad guys—the people who do not have really good intentions toward the society—own more television stations than any others.
Well thank you very much for giving us your perspective on the Indonesian media, especially today.
I thank you. Thank you.
Wimar Witoelar is a former television host, a communications consultant and an adjunct professor at Deakin University.
You’re with the Media Report on RN. I’m Richard Aedy.