Thursday, June 22, 2006




Media and the Pandora’s Box of Reformation

IIAS Seminar on Globalizing Media and Local Society in Indonesia. 13–14 September, 2002. Leiden University, the Netherlands

Dedy N. Hidayat
and Sasa Djuarsa Sendjaja
Department of Communication, University of Indonesia
e-mail: psikom@cbn.net.id




“If you open that Pandora’s Box, you never know what Trojan ‘orses will jump out” (Ernest Bevin, 1975).

Abstract
The reform movement that ended Suharto's 32 years of authoritarian rule has brought significant changes in Indonesia. It has liberated the market, the media, and the civil society from state repression. But in the Indonesian case, the triangle of free market, free media, and free civil society stand in a complex relationship to democracy. The newly liberated civil society becomes the home of undemocratic elements that are more than willing to open the "Pandora’s Box", releasing various long-buried social conflicts that involve ethnic, racial, religious and class divisions. Combined with the increasing pressure of the liberalised market and the weakening power of the state, the deep rooted social conflicts pose a threat to the functioning of media as public sphere for peaceful and rational public discourse in a democracy. While some media intentionally aligned their editorial policy with particular groups in conflicts, some other media exploit the conflicts and violence as commodity. While some media get involve in a circuit of conflict accumulation, some other media become the target of violence attacks from ethnic and religious groups in the conflicts. Thus, the value of free media for maintaining a free, rational and peaceful public discourse in a democracy, and for cultivating beliefs and norms that support democracy, remains in question.


The Changing Indonesia: Towards a Better Democracy?
The collapse of Suharto’s 32 years authoritarian rule has brought significant changes in the country, marked primarily by an erosion of state repression. While the social, political and economic conditions seem far from settled, reformasi (reformation) continues as the buzzword for the politicized segment in the country, demanding for a more open and democratic society, replacing both the authoritarian corporatism state and the crony capitalism economy that marked Suharto’s New Order regime. After the resignation of Suharto from Presidency on 21 May 1998, the subsequent administrations - under massive internal and external pressures for reformation -- had gradually freed the society, the market, and the media from state intervention.
The newly liberated civil society also expressed itself in the rise of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), advocacy groups, voluntary social and cultural organizations, independent labor unions, including some 24 new journalist associations. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are not a recent phenomenon in Indonesia. There have been a number of NGOs under the New Order regime. They include groups that advocate general public causes, such as women rights, human rights, democracy, environmental protection, community development etc. Some have even gained prominence in both national and international forums through their advocacy in various public causes, such as LBH (Lembaga Bantuan Hukum, Legal Aid Institute), and Walhi (Wahana Lingkungan Hidup, Indonesian Environmental Forum). Inspite of the structural constraints imposed by the regime, these NGOs have played an important role in strengthening and empowering civil society which was still weak then. The collapse of Suharto’s authoritarian regime gave birth to hundreds of new NGOs, from those that advocate transparency and government accountability (such as Government Watch, Corruption Watch, etc.) to those that concern with democratisation processes (e.g., Election Watch), or specific public cause (e.g., Urban Poor Consortium). Observers tend to agree that many of such organizations manage to improve their quality of activities (see, e.g., Tajoeddin, 2002; p. 23). In addition to that, the civil society is also gradually gaining supremacy over the military that was once deeply entrenched in day-to-day practical politics. In 1999, for the first time in more than three decades, Indonesians had a free general election in which 45 new political parties took part .
The market had been more liberalized through a series of “jungle clearing operations” to end a web of politically well-connected business privileges and monopolies that surrounds Suharto’s inner circle. Further, as a response to perceived association between the forces of free market and the collapse of Suharto’s authoritarian regime, there has been a welcome revival of neo-liberalism that claim economic liberalisation is a necessary pre-condition for democratisation. Accordingly, under the spirit to “leave everything to the market”, and following principles of “rational” market economy – specifically those that based upon prescriptions (or pressures) from financial multilateral institutions, i.e., the World Bank and the International Monetary Funds -- several public enterprises have been privatized, and a number of government subsidies have also been cut (e.g., subsidies for gas and electricity).
On the media sector, the liberalisation includes a series of deregulation, and more importantly, the liquidation of the Information Ministry, which was one among central features of Suharto’s authoritarian corporatism and responsible for a long record of press bans in the country. A year after the resignation of Suharto, the House of Representatives passed a new, liberating Press Law that, among other things, eliminates licensing requirements, removes government’s ability to ban publications, guarantees freedom of the press, and even imposes a stiff penalty of two years’ prison on “anyone who acts against the law by deliberately taking action which could obstruct the work of the press.” Since publishing license is no longer required by the new government, it is estimated that after Suharto’s fall in 1998, the number of newspapers soared from 300 to around 1.000, and the number of radio stations from 700 to more than 1.000 (Mangahas, in Johannen and Gomez, 2001; p.125). The new law undoubtedly conform with the spirit of global neo-liberalism by permiting foreigner to own up to 49 percent of shares in media agencies. While a new Broadcasting Bills is being redrawn by the parliament, 5 new private television companies entered the media market, competing with 5 other television companies that had already been in the market since early 1990s. The Indonesia’s media sector is now also producing almost any kind of political information and issues. Jonathan Turner, the Reuters bureau chief in Jakarta, agrees that “Indonesia has become one of the world’s most open communities in as much as you can pretty well write what you want without fear of official sanction” (quoted in Goodman, 2000).
Despite the progress of reformasi, the only thing that one can be certain of is that Indonesia in the future will be very different from today and yesterday. The emergence of newly liberated civil society, market, and media, is leading Indonesia towards a freer country. But questions remain: will the new equation of market-civil society-media improve the quality of democratic life in Indonesia? will the liberalisation of the media, the civil society, and the market amount to a more democratic Indonesia?
Democracy, we argue, implies not only a mechanism for people to participate in political processes, but also a communication system for all members of the society to discuss and develop opinions on issues that affect their lives, in order that their participation in political processes can be more meaningful. Central to the concept of democracy is the existence of media as institution for empowering society with values that support democracy, and as public sphere where all those participating in public discourse do so peacefully and rationally on an equal basis. Thus, it follows that a healthy media environment and reasoned public discourse is essential to the formation and maintenance of civil society in a democratic system.

The Opening of Pandora’s Box and the “Bad” Civil Society
The departure of Suharto’s authoritarian regime have been replaced by a more open and democratic yet weak governments, and the strengthening civil society. One may expect that a strong and vibrant civil society strengthens and enhances democracy.
However, the weakening power of the post-Suharto government to maintain social order, contributes to the transition of the country from being a society in which primordial-related tensions and animosities for the most part have been buried for many years -- by a combination of growing common identity of being Indonesian, state repressions, patronage and fiat -- to one which is torn apart by racial, ethnic, and religious conflicts. To make the matter worse, conflicts within the Indonesia’s newly liberated civil society have in many cases evolved into social violence in its most barbaric expressions. The situation is to some extent comparable to the East European cases when the weakening of the state has permitted various social conflict evolved into social and communal violence.
Since the mid-1998, numerous communal violence have occurred in various parts of the country. In addition to the violence during the East Timor transition to independence and continuing violence which is associated with separatist movements in Aceh and Papua, the country has experienced chronic communal violence between Christians and Muslims (in Poso, Ambon/Maluku, Mataram, and Kupang), between native and migrants (in Sambas, Sampit, Pangkalan Bun, and other areas in Kalimantan), and a series of violence attacks against Chinese (in Jakarta, Solo, and some other cities).
Indeed, communal violence has a long history in Indonesia, it can be traced back at least to the 1965-1966 massacre of suspected communists. However, a recent study by Tadjoeddin (2002), which was conducted for the United Nation Support Facility for Indonesian Recovery (UNSFIR), suggest that, in terms of the number of incidents and deaths, the scale of communal violence—the worst amongst categories of social violence in Indonesia—increased sharply after the fall of the New Order regime in 1998 (see Table 1). The study also indicates that communal violence related to ethnicity, religion, and native-migrant status is the most severe among other types of communal violence, such as. communal violence related to political views, civil commotion, and competition for resources (see Table 2).
Numerous observers advanced conspiracy theory that there was a systematic effort by the military and Suharto’s supporters to destabilize the country by orchestrating racial and religious conflicts between the pribumi (indigenous) and the Chinese, between Christian and Muslims, and between native and migrants. Such a theory is not without empirical basis. The Joint Fact Finding Team on the 13-15 May riots, for instance, implicated several high rank military officers in planning and using the riot for their own political purposes (Tim Gabungan Pencari Fakta, 1998).
Some of the voluntary organizations are indeed paramilitary organizations or vigilante groups, remnants of the New Order’s “Repressive State Apparatus” that comprise of political thugs. They were organized and used to maintain Suharto’s regime capacity to counter popular opposition. The mobilization of political thugs was a common feature of the Indonesian politics, especially during the New Order era. Groups such as the Pemuda Panca Marga, and the Pemuda Pancasila, had often been engaged by the Suharto regime to terrorize specific communities for political or commercial ends (see e.g., Bourchier, in Budiman, Hatley, and Kingsbury, 1999; pp. 149-171). At times of political tension, thugs were often used to do jobs that can not stand the light of day if they were to be linked the military, they have also been paid to clear the way for more military involvement in politics (van Klinken, 1996); at every election during the New Order era, they were used for intimidation; in several riots and students demonstrations, they have been used to provoke violent response from students as well as bystanders. Political thugs have also been beneficial for the New Order regime to intimidate political dissidents.
However, such a systematic effort by the military is clearly not a sufficient condition for the escalating violent communal conflicts. The violence conflicts have also been ignited by the existence of numerous factors and tendencies within the liberated civil society itself.
Many students of civil society acknowledge, civil society can be the home of dangerous illiberal elements, such as hate groups; these groups in many cases were responsible in promoting, organizing, and executing violence (see e.g., Chambers & Kopstein, 2001), and in some cases they were organized as responses to a chronic communal conflicts. In such a sense, the political value of civil society for peaceful and rational public discourses in a democracy is clearly becomes a contingent affair. The situation also applies for the Indonesian context.
Coupled with the weakening state power, the strengthened civil society has unleashed numerous long buried social ills of a society which is highly divided over ideology, dogma, ethnicity and primordial sentiment – factors that may become highly flammable fuel in conflicts. Even though many voluntary associations and non-government organizations are those that cross-cut the social, ethnic, religion, and racial divisions, the other side of the newly liberalized civil society is characterized by the rise of groups that have been organized along certain primordial lines, that advocate undemocratic causes, or feed hate, racism, gender bias, and enthusiastic to take law in their own hands.
Systematic study is needed to explore factors behind the rise of these groups, and to explain why people join “bad” organizations. For the Western European context, multiple studies have convincingly and repeatedly demonstrated that socioeconomic factors are very important in understanding why people join “bad” organizations; for example, there is a close link between high unemployment (as well as a host of other institutional, demographic, and nonsocioeconomic causes) and support for extremist groups and political parties (see Chambers & Kopstein, 2001). In contemporary Russia and in much of post-Communist Eastern Europe, right-wing skin heads and other extremist groups, as well as supporters of right-wing parties such as Barkashov’s Russian National Unity, tend to be drawn disproportionately from the downsized industrial suburban regions (see Kopstein and Hanson, 1997). These findings may be replicated in the Indonesian context where its economy is still struggling to recover from the 1997 economic crisis. Casual observations suggest that members of the “bad” organizations are very likely those who unemployed or half-employed (the activities of these groups, such as street demonstrations and fund rising drives, are often conducted during the workdays; and some of these groups even organize “boot camps” for weeks). This implies that, at the least, the failure of the free market to integrate a particular segment of the civil society contributes to the expansion of “bad” civil society.
Some analysts argues that these undemocratic forces are small, marginalized, and contained within particular segments of the society. Nonetheless, even the undemocratic forces are small in number today, and unable to directly destabilize the country through the mobilization of large numbers of people, their ideas and rhetoric may leak into the mainstream political discourse. The possibility for this has surfaced in several political events at national level. During the 1999 presidential election, for instance, the idea that a woman could not become head of state for religious reasons, was quick to enter national politics and developed into a crucial issue within the parliament to disqualify Megawati Soekarnoputri (chair of the PDI-P that scored highest popular votes in the election). For a more recent example, the People’s Representative Assembly (MPR), in its 2002 annual session has ratified a draft for economic recovery which gives priority to “indigenous” citizens, ignoring the existence of economically weak “non-indigenous” citizens.

“Civil Society in the Newsroom”
The strengthening of civil society has negative impacts on the quality of press freedom in the country; it becomes one among responsible factors for the emergence of violence attacks and intimidation against media institutions or journalists. In the New Order era, the media found their worst enemies in the repressive state apparatuses; but in the era of “reformasi”, the enemies come out of the “bad” elements within the newly liberated civil society.
Sources from various media organizations have admitted that they often have to submit to the pressure of the mobs and gangs, for the safety of their operation and their life. A report by SEAPA Jakarta’s Advocacy team indicates that journalism is indeed still a dangerous profession in the reformasi era (SEAPA, 2000). Between January and October 2000 alone, some 100 cases of violence and intimidation of the press have occurred; they include physical violence (assault, physical abuse, abduction, destruction of media facilities) and non-physical intimidation (threats, terror, abuse, and banning action). Another report, from the Independent Journalist Alliance (AJI, Aliansi Jurnalis Independent, 2001), recorded more than 80 violence attacks against the press during the 2001 period. The AJI report (2001) suggests that a majority of these attacks (77 out of 80) was conducted by paramilitary groups (e.g., Pemuda Pancasila), paramilitary forces or “task forces” connected with political parties that usually wear military-look uniforms (e.g., Satgas PDI-P or the Task Force of Partai Demokrasi Indonesia-Perjuangan,), religion-related organizations (e.g., Laskar Jihad, Front Pembela Islam, Front Umat Islam), and ethnic organizations (e.g., Satgas Papua, Ikatan Keluarga Madura di Surabaya, Gerakan Aceh Merdeka).
The most disturbing fact is that the attacks involved members of organizations or political parties which are widely regarded as reformist. For instance, the office of Jawa Pos, the largest daily in Surabaya, has been attacked and occupied by the Banser (the security task torce of Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Islamic organization in the country, the majority of which is supporter of the then President, Abdurrahman Wahid,). In another incident, supporters of PDI-P (which is chaired by the then Vice President, Megawati) attacked a photographer of a local daily (Surya). In both cases, the respective party leaders failed to show regret or to condemn the action of their party’s paramilitary forces.
What is also worth special attention is the violence perpetrated by religious groups or organizations. For instance, the occupation of the daily Bernas, in Yogyakarta, by Front Pemuda Islam Prambanan (Prambanan Islamic Youth Front), and, a radio station in Surakarta, Rasitania, was forced to out of the air by Forum Pemuda Muslim Surakarta (Surakarta Muslim Youth’s Forum) in which the police even acceded to the attackers’ demand to seize broadcasting equipment. The Islam Defenders’ Front (FPI, Front Pembela Islam) demanded a private television (SCTV) to stop a Latin film series, Esmeralda, simply because there is an antagonistic character in the film who named Fatima, which according to them was the name of Prophet Muhammad’s daughter. The station compromised with the demand by stopping the film in its 114 episode from a total of 134. Another group, the Army of Holy War, (Laskar Jihad) which have executed numerous acts of violence against journalists, and intimidation towards media organizations, was declared in 2000 by Aliansi Jurnalis Independen as the enemy of the press (SEAPA, 2000; AJI, 2001).
In most cases, the attacks and intimidations were caused by the disappointment with the media coverage, but instead of writing a rebuff to the editors they choose to attack the media physically; and despite the new press law that gives a stiff penalty on “anyone who obstruct the work of the press”, the attackers can — most of the time — get away with it.
The Pandora’s Box, however, has been selectively opened. The issue of the 1965-1966 massacre of suspected members of the banned Partai Komunis Indonesia (Indonesian Communist Party), for instance, remains in the sphere of deviance for the Indonesian media. For nearly three decades, under the Suharto’s regime, the discourse of “communism threat” has become a master narrative that served an indispensable function in the protracted political stability and impressive economic growth, and therefore secured the regime’s legitimacy. The master narrative had cultivated a genuine hatred against communism among a majority of Indonesians; and such a hatred lingers in post-Suharto era. Accordingly, on March 2001, when the newly-elected President Wahid asked for forgiveness for the role of his own Islamic organization, various groups and organizations sharply criticized, and the mass media showed no symphaty to the President’s stance (see Eriyanto, 2001b).
A media discourse analysis suggest that there is not much change in terms of how the media should and would avoid discussing communism in a relatively positive light (see Ansyori and Anto, 2001; Eriyanto, 2001a). Another analysis revealed that both partisan media and independent media tended to be one sided in their report on the issue of communism and the 1965-1966 affairs, they were dominated by accounts from military officers and known anti-communist figures (Sudibyo, 2001a). These studies suggest that balanced discussion on communism is within the sphere of deviance for the Indonesian public in general. Consequently, the truth about the 1965-1966 massacre is largely still untouch within the Pandora’s Box.
The possibility of mob attacks against media organizations, as a senior journalist mentioned, may also help to explain the behavior of most Indonesian press on the issue of communism and the 1965-1966 massacre. Moreover, on April 2001, Aliansi Anti Komunis (Anti-Communist Alliance), a coalition of 33 Islamic organizations and East-Timor pro-integration militias, burned books that, according to its leaders, promote communism; the same group also issued a threat to bookstores which sold communist and leftist books.

Media and the Return of “Gold, Glory, and Gospel”
Analyses on the media during the Suharto’s New Order have most frequently ended with conclusions about the regime pervasive control over the content, operation, personnel, and organization of the media, through censorship, press-bans, government-manufactured regulations, and vertical integration between the ruling elite and the press industry.
Nonetheless, even though the New Order regime had constantly controlled and used the media as instruments of domination and of legitimation, they could not always do so as they would wish. The regime operated, in Golding and Murdock’ words, within “a structure which constrains as well as facilitates, imposing limits as well as offering opportunities” (Golding & Murdock, 1991; p. 19). There was a combination of human agencies and structural factors that can be attributed to the existence of constraints for the regime to use the media as its instrument of domination.
Journalist were among those constraints. Especially since there seems to be an inherent critical impulse among the Indonesian journalists as many of them believe in the idea of the press as the “watchdog” or the “fourth estate”. They were constantly fought to develop resistance against the New Order’s repressive structure, advocating freedom of the press, democracy, human rights, gender equity, and various issues of public concern. Such journalists activism became more obvious after the banning of a leading newsmagazine, Tempo, in 1994, when a group of journalists managed to organize open challenges to the regime, by organizing rallies, forming an independent union (Aliansi Jurnalis Independen).
Some of these “activists” journalist went underground, and published alternative or underground media (printed and on-line media), such as Xpos, Suara Independen (the Independent Voice), and KdP, or Kabar dari Pijar (News from the Information Centre and Action Network for Reform). The objectivity criterion proved unsuitable for evaluating underground media contents, especially for underground media such as KdP (both in its print and Internet versions) since it was without doubt political pamphlets, and was designed from the start as a “fighting machine against repression” (see Menayang, Nugroho, and Listiorini, 2002).
For many “activist” journalists, it seems that objectivity, impartiality and neutrality have long been denied as part of standard journalist professionalism. In contrast to the “objectivist” journalists who are more preoccupied with professional standard for impartial and balanced reporting, these “activist” journalists prefer to perform as active participants in causes that cross-cut ethnic, race, and religious division. It seems that they perceived both “objectivity” and “neutrality” as dogmas of an ideology which itself biased against the functioning of journalists as watchdog. Their attitude may best be described in the words of a young journalist from a prestigious news magazine: “We can not stand neutral in front of democracy and totalitarianism, freedom and repression, right and wrong . . .”.
However, the euphoria of ‘reformasi” has brought into existence a number of partisan media and a new breed of “activist” journalists. This new breed of journalists, also refuses the idea of journalist as neutral and objective media worker, but instead of taking sides with values such as human rights and democracy, they align themselves with particular politicized group or segment of the population, including group which carry religion banner or which were organized on the basis of a particular primordial sentiment. The sidedness of this type of journalists might be best described in the agreement of a young journalist with the content of a poster which says: “Supporting Habibie is equal to supporting Islam, opposing Habibie is equal to opposing Islam” (Mendukung Habibie = mendukung Islam, menentang Habibie = menentang Islam). Thus, what matter most to him is the fact that Habibie is a Muslim, regardless of what Habibie may do with his presidency. The chance is good that we could also find such an attitude among Christian journalists.
The rise of media that aligned their editorial policy with particular political party or religious group, especially after 1998, enchanced the opportunity for the new “activist” journalists to find channel of expression for their politicized primordial sentiments and loyalties. Even casual observation to media report on inter-ethnic or inter-religion conflicts may easily detect the presence of biases or one-sidedness which ground on a particular primordial sentiment or loyalty.
In the case of conflicts in Maluku, each local media aligned their contents with a particular side. “Christians newspapers” (i.e., those which are owned and largely staffed by Christians, such as Siwalima, and Suara Maluku) tend to use sources from Christian communities and give favorable picture to the Christians side and portray them as victims; whereas “Muslims newspapers” (i.e., owned and almost exclusively staffed by Muslims, e.g., Ambon Ekspress) use sources that predominantly favorable to the Muslims side, and portray the Muslims as a group which must to defense itself. Each side also tend to present its report on a dichotomy of “us” against “them”, and within the rhetoric of war, such as pasukan Merah (the red army, i.e., the Christians) and pasukan Putih (the white army, i.e., the Muslims).
Such a tendency is not confined to the local media in Ambon and Maluku alone, especially after the conflicts in Ambon sparked reactions from various groups in the capital city of Jakarta. When a number of Islamic groups organized a mass rally in Jakarta (7 January 2000) and issued a call for jihad in a response to the continuing conflict in Ambon, numerous newspapers in Jakarta tend to construct the news based upon selected facts (Sudibyo, 2001b). On the one hand, Republika, a daily newspaper staffed predominantly by members of Ikatan Cendekiawan Muslim Indonesia (ICMI, the Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals), give a favorable portrayal to the call, by giving exclusive access to the opinions of Muslim figures who support the call for Jihad. On the other hand, Suara Pembaruan, which is owned and predominantly staffed by Christians, tended to give more access to Muslim figures who criticized the call for jihad (e.g., Abdurrahman Wahid, the then President).
The “Christians” media tend to portray the conflict within the “terrorism” frame, especially after the 11 September tragedy in New York, by relating the Muslims with Afghan fighters who reportedly started to enter Ambon. While on the other side of the conflict, there is a strong tendency among a number of media to go deeper into the Pandora’s Box, by framing the conflict in Ambon within a long buried sentiment which is dated back to several centuries ago when the Western countries conquered and exploited the rest of the world, and spread their religion. Consider this headline that appeared on a magazine: “Membongkar Praktek GGG: Gold – Glory – Gospel: The Moslem Cleansing di Ambon” (Exploring the GGG practice: Gold-Glory-Gospel: The Moslem Cleansing in Ambon -- Suara Hidayatullah, Oktober 1999).
In general, numerous “Islamic” newspapers and magazines tend to portray the conflict within the frame of “Gold, Glory, and Gospel”, among other things by reporting cases of possible “Christianization”, accusing the Christians as the lackey of foreign interest, labeling international NGOs in Ambon as a form of “imperialisme modern” (modern imperialism), associating the Christians with the RMS, or Republik Maluku Selatan (Republic of South Maluku) or Republik Maluku Serani (Republic of Christian Maluku).
The situation are even more serious that the Internet has broadened the conflicts beyond a particular geographic boundary. While a number of websites drum up support and symphaty for the Christians in Ambon (some of the websites are managed from abroad), several other websites regularly posted one-sided reports about the “brutality” and the “gold-glory-gospel” practices of the Holly Cross army (Pasukan Salib). The Laskar Jihad Online (http://www.LaskarJihad.or.id), for example, posted a report of an allegedly victims of Kristenisasi (Christianization) in Ambon (“Koordinator Pengungsi THR Menjadi Korban Kristenisasi”), and a provocative headlines such as this: “Angkot Kristen Lakukan Tabrak Lari di Galunggung” (“Hit and run by a Christian’s city transport”).
There seem to be a” never-ending circuit of symbolic violence accumulation” in media contents. It is very likely that such media portrayal of violence would maintain and reproduced hatreds and more violence within society. Thus, in a sense, the media may be part of “a never-ending circuit of violence and conflicts accumulation.”

Conflict and never-ending circuit of capital accumulation
The media market liberalisation that have been implemented by the post-Suharto administrations through a series of deregulation policies, is basically a turn from state regulation toward market regulation, whereby the operation of the industry is primarily left to market mechanism, rather than to state intervention. Market partisants, or advocates of the liberal political-economic perspective in various universities or academic communities, also tend to uphold the proposition that liberalisation or deregulation of the media industry will support a process of democratisation, creating a free-market place of ideas where the public has the sovereignity to determine which media products they will consume.
Indeed, the deregulation, on the one hand, freed the media from government repression and intervention; yet, on the other, it makes the media become more vulnerable to the “market dictatorship”. The “market dictator” enforce the logic or the imperative of “never-ending circuit of capital accumulation” (or M – C – M : Money – Commodities – More Money). In turn, the imperative of capital accumulation constructs a market structure within which media plunged into a fierce competition for sales and ratings. The same market imperative also works consistenly to exclude media organizations that lack the capital base required to face the market competition or that less oriented toward the market demand. In the newspaper sector, it is estimated that out of 1000 newspapers which emerged during the 17-month Habibie presidency, only some 600 to 700 remained in the market when Abdurrahman Wahid inaugurated as President in October 1999 (Mangahas, in Johannen and Gomez, 2001; p.125).
The logic of capital accumulation also dictates a logic of exclusion. This helps determine who will get access to the media, and whose views and issues are to be reported on the media. Under the repressive New Order’s state regulation, it was the ruling regime that had special access to the media, to define among other things what were the most important issues facing the country. It was mandatory for the private television stations, for instance, to relay carefully scripted, state-prepared newscasts, and Laporan Khusus (Special Reports) from the government-owned television (TVRI). But now, under the “market dictatorship”, as media facing a more intense competition, it is becoming more apparent that those who have economic resources will gain more access to the media. A naked example of this took place on mid-August, 2000, when an indigenous business magnate appeared on three out of five private television channels, simultaneously, for more than one hour, just to sing with his band and expressed his opinions on various political, social, and economic issues through a well-planned interview with two well-known political analysts.
The same logic also determines that sometimes media are free only to the extent that their owners and editors allow them to be free. A report from Aliansi Jurnalis Independen suggests that the bargaining power of journalists against the media owners or managers is generally weak, and a journalist could be fired if the media owner dislikes his or her news reports (AJI, 2001; pp. 68-72).
Lowly paid journalists in a highly competitive market also creates another threat to the functioning of press in a democratisation process. While people just started buying the whole time slots on television broadcast, it is becoming more common for the interested elites to do what is called “memelihara wartawan” (to domesticate reporters). A report reveals that one large textile company during 2001 spent more than Rp 450 million on "media-related expenses", which included monthly fees for reporters, photographers and senior editors; a large portion of the money goes in envelopes that are given out quietly at press conferences, the rest is budgeted for gifts, direct deposits into journalists' bank accounts or shares in companies (Perry, 2002). Such a practice will certainly give a favorable media portrayal to the company in times of dispute with its workers.
Although the operation of the media industry is primarily left to market forces, the government remains in a relatively strong position to interven with the media. A report by South-East Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) indicates that last year 64 state-owned companies and government departments paid more than 900 billion rupiah ($173 million) under the guise of pembinaan wartawan, or nurturing journalists (Perry, 2002).
Even though media tends to ignore class imbalance and antagonism, they on the other hand exploits conflicts in certain dimensions (e.g. conflict between political parties, or war). as a commodity. Cross-cultural observations have shown that social conflicts of such dimension are the most dominant focus points exploited by television as information commodities (Cohen, Adoni, and Bantz, 1990). In the Indonesian case, liberalisation of the media industry gives more rooms to “market partisants” or “market fundamentalists” for maneuvering in the industry. These “market partisants” help unleashed tendency to sensationalism, exploiting conflicts and neglecting reconsiliatory public discussions, in order to survive fierce market competition or to accumulate capital. This tendency can especially be found in “independent” issue-driven tabloids or newspapers that their revenues are mainly from street sales (it was estimated that tabloids has subscribers less than 5% on the average). One does not have to employ a sophisticated discourse analysis in order to sense such a tendency among numerous media in Jakarta. Consider news headlines such as these:

• “Israel Babi!!” (Israel Pig!),
• “Amerika, Setan!” (Amerika, Devil)
• “Duet Osama-Saddam Siap Hancurkan Bush” (Osama-Saddam Duo Ready to Destroy Bush)
• “Menteri Djatun Antek Yahudi” (Minister Djatun Jew’s Lackey)
• “Ayo Mahasiswa . . . Rebut Kursi Akbar” (Students, Let’s Seize Akbar’s Seat) .
• “PDI-P Pengecut!” (PDI-P Coward!)
• “Sutiyoso Pengecut” (Sutiyoso Coward)

The logic behind the circuit of capital accumulation also find its peculiar expression in a circuit of symbolic violence accumulation in media contents. A content analysis on 4 major Jakarta tabloid, reveals that in addition to a strong tendency to give favorable portrayal to a particular side in Ambon (Sudibyo, 2001c), these tabloids also failed to resist the excitement of using the rhetoric of war, or bombastic and hyperbolic words in their news reports on Ambon. They prefer words such as ladang pembantaian (slaughter field), perang salib (holy war), Bosnia kedua (second Bosnia), Kristenisasi (Christianization), and “Moslem cleansing”.
Such symbolic violence accumulation could contribute to the maintenance and the reproduction of conflicts and violence among the consumers of the media. In turn, the reproduced conflicts and violence could again be exploited by the same media as commodities -- and the process goes on and on. Thus, in some cases, the circuit of capital accumulation and the circuit of conflict accumulation operate on parallel tracks. A study of riots in several West Java cities also suggests the possibility of such a phenomenon (Rusadi, 2002).

Conclusions and Some Implications
This paper set out to analyze the triangle interaction among media, market, and civil society, in order to examine the notion that the emergence of newly freed media, free market, and free civil society are necessary conditions for a more democratic political life. There is no simple and clear-cut conclusion that could be drawn from the analysis. But, at the least, our analysis of the Indonesian case first and foremost suggests that the relationship between the triangle of free market – free civil society – free media to democracy should be specifically contextualized, and be analyzed as a historically contingent affairs.
There is no doubt that for the truly functioning democracy, freedom of the press from state repression should be guaranted as anyone who has experienced the life under Suharto’s authoritarian corporatism regime would testify. But, our analysis also suggests that, within a specific historical juncture of post-Suharto era, free media, in a free market and free civil society, stands in a complex relationship to democracy.
One may assume that “where civil society is vibrant and strong, so too will there be a less fettered media; conversely, where the media is free, civil society will grow sinews of strength much faster, more assuredly” (see Mangahas, in Johannen and Gomez, 2001 ; p.123). Nevertheless, the newly liberated civil society in the current context of Indonesia becomes the home of undemocratic elements, capable of opening the "Pandora’s Box", releasing various social conflicts that involve ethnic, racial, religious and class divisions which for the most part have long been buried. The failure of the free market to integrate a particular segment of the civil society also contributes to the expansion of “bad” civil society. The strengthening civil society thus creates a new threat to the functioning of media as public sphere for peaceful and rational public discourse in a democracy. While some media intentionally aligned with particular groups in conflicts, some other media become a target of violence attacks from ethnic and religious groups in the conflicts.
The results is indeed a diversity in media contents, which is often regarded as a desirable consequence of media freedom or as a goal of media activity; it is also often considered as essential to democratic systems where alternative political ideas and policy options are offered competitively (see McQuail, 1987; p. 128). But in the specific context of Indonesia, where the “bad” elements of the civil society have the strength to influence the construction of news, the diversity of media contents is often accompanied by expressions of hatred, misrepresentation, falsehood, and inflammatory or provocative symbolic realities which tend to rule out reconciliatory information; and in most cases such expressions relate to ethnic, racial, religious and other primordial division. With such a diversity, if the question is whether or not the diversity of media contents would be able to support the existence of rational and peaceful public spheres, then the indications are not quite encouraging.
Market fundamentalists may also argue that “the greater the play of the market forces, the greater the freedom of the press; the greater the freedom of the press, the greater the freedom of consumer choice”. However, within the current specific historical juncture of post-Suharto era, the liberated media from state control represents a paradox. The freedom to write and broadcast news is also expressed as the freedom to sell news in an increasingly competitive market, which itself dictates the logic of capital accumulation that often lead the media to sensationalism and to exploit conflicts. In this sense, the circuit of capital accumulation in media market may find its expression in the circuit of conflict accumulation in society, within which media are part of it.
Indeed, not every media in the country performs as what this paper describes. There are numerous media which starts to practice “peace journalism”, in order to perform as impartial and balanced public spheres where citizens can find reasoned discussions about problems and choices. However, this demonstrated that the market will be stratified into segment of the “peaceful media” (or “quality media”) on the one hand, and segment of the “war-monger media” (or “yellow media”) on the other hand. This means that the media fail to provide all citizens with the same quality of information and opinions. This would pose a problem for the functioning of a democracy, since from the point of view of democratic theories, it is essential that the same quality and variety of information and debate be available to all citizens equally (see Parks, 1992; p.43).
The media market liberalization, or deregulation, is basically a turn from state regulation toward market regulation. Both produce flaws and problems for the functioning of media in democratic systems. The debates on the role of state in media industries frequently lead to the choice between market regulation (deregulation) and state regulation (Mosco, 1996; p. 201). Nonetheless, from a critical political economy point of view, what matter most is the merits of different forms of regulation for the interest of public. The debates come down to several forms of direct public intervention or participation in the media; in the broadcasting sector, several alternatives have been offered, to include public broadcasting, public access television (see Kellner, 1990), community broadcasting, and several other forms of public intervention or participation.
The same debate is now also take place in the post-Suharto Indonesia. The country has experienced state regulation on the media that was done on behalf of the public, and it did not look good at all. There is now a strong drive and persistent advocacy to established direct public intervention and participation in the media sector. Nevertheless, great care and caution are warranted because of the specific character of the newly liberated civil society in Indonesia. Public direct intervention, as shown by the mob attacks on media outlets in the post-Suharto period, certainly poses no less threat to the quality of media content. The same would also be true if the “bad” elements of the newly liberated civil society establish their own “public broadcasting” or “community broadcasting”, especially in the area of conflicts.
Finding forms and mechanism for direct public intervention and participation in the media sector seems to be a fruitful direction for research on media and democracy
.


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Newspapers:

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Suara Hidayatullah (1999), Membongkar Praktek GGG: Gold - Glory – Gospel. The MoslemCleansing di Ambon. Oktober. Available at http://media.isnet.org./ambon/Hidayatullah01.html

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Ambon Express, various editions, July – August 2001

Suara Maluku, various editions, July – August 2001

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