Mon, 24 Apr 2000

Cut out the sensationalism

The Jakarta Post can certainly look back with a certain pride and satisfaction at its achievements. The Post has truly become the mouthpiece of Indonesia to the outside world. International agencies like the IMF, World Bank, etc. must be referring to this newspaper routinely for their additional input in judging the country's economic progress. Expatriates form their perceptions mostly from their reading of the Post.

Your editorials have always been upright and objective, focusing on principles. You were right on top, and in fact, one step ahead of events in Indonesia. This is no mean accomplishment, given the circumstances. As Mammen Mathew, president of the Indian Newspaper Society and said " A newspaper is not a consumer item. Newspapers mold the nation".

I must state, however, that in your "City News" page, negative news like murder, rape, shootings and robbery are blown out of proportion and reported in gory detail. What is the need for sensationalism in the paper? This kind of report goes directly into the subconscious mind, influencing the behavior of people.

Let me digress a bit here. Every locality in Jakarta, it seems, has erected fortress-like structures to ward off outsiders. Previously, "exclusive" housing estates were built this way but now, in some places, common public roads are also sealed off to "protect" their residents -- during the daytime too! Instead of building bridges of friendship and amity, it is a pity that individual communities are shutting themselves off.

Indonesia is a nation of some 13,500 islands. Let it not get a dubious distinction of having "islands" within islands. Many may understand that "inter-dependence" is a necessity. No, it is really a goal whereby synergy among human beings blossoms ultimately.

The fear has also driven some people to build high-rise walls -- which are fortified further with barbed wire fencing -- around their houses. Is that what we've understood from the term "Think globally -- Act locally"?

I'm delighted to find that the majority of contributors to the "Your Letters" column are now Indonesians. It should be rightly so, because they are ones who are directly affected by what goes on in the country. As usual, well-meaning debates take place in the forum, and the editors allow balanced expression of views on both sides.

At times, I wonder why people continuously harp on about Dutch rule and its alleged misdeeds. It's all dead and gone. Let the historians concentrate on correcting history, wherever called for. For commoners like us, the rear-view mirror is meant only to help us march forward. Blaming the past takes us nowhere. We are the masters of the present. The word "present" also means a gift. Let us enjoy the "present", which is a God-given gift to all of us and get on with our present lives, focusing on the future.