Fri, 25 Apr 2003

Cutting out the misinformation to tell the truth on touchy issues

Philip Flood, Sydney

The Australia Indonesia Institute is delighted to congratulate The Jakarta Post on its 20th anniversary.

Through outstanding editorials, impressive news coverage and excellent features, The Jakarta Post has played a major role in informing an English-speaking audience of developments in Indonesia and of global developments from an Indonesian perspective.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the Post and others were pushing the boundaries of freedom of the press in a responsible way, I recall the courage and independence shown by your journalists. Good journalists are well served by outstanding editors and some, like Sabam Siagian, have gone on to become brilliant ambassadors for Indonesia.

The founders of the Post deserve high praise for the political and financial risks they took in beginning an imaginative venture. English-speaking audiences around the globe as well as within Indonesia need to know what is happening in the world's largest Muslim nation and the most important country in Southeast Asia. The Jakarta Post has met that need admirably.

At the present time, much of the Western world is confused about Islam. Historical knowledge is undervalued. The contribution of Islam to social justice, philosophy, poetry, medicine, mathematics and astronomy has been largely forgotten.

In the minds of many Islam has become associated with violence and the Taliban's warped vision of religion. Indonesia can play a role in changing this. Indonesia has been a beacon for moderate Islam and for tolerance and cooperation with other religions, and the voice of Indonesia's moderate Muslim leaders needs to become more vocal and to find an audience in the West.

The Jakarta Post can play a vital role in this.

Many thousands of Australians have enhanced their understanding and their affection for the people of Indonesia through the excellent work of the Post. We look forward to much more in the next 20 years.

(The writer was Australia's ambassador to Indonesia. He currently chairs the Australia Indonesia Institute).