Sat, 04 Aug 2001

Information ministry

The possibility of the revival of the information ministry has sparked controversy. In the New Order period, this ministry served as the government's tool in disseminating its programs and persuading the people to implement or actively participate in the programs.

Based on presidential decrees outlining its functions, the ministry spearheaded various campaigns to expedite the implementation of various government programs like family planning, public health, agricultural campaigns, etc.

To maintain its power, the New Order regime tightened its control over activities in all sectors, including the mass media. Newspapers such as Sinar Harapan and Prioritas, and periodicals like Monitor, Tempo and Detik were banned.

Undeniably, the presence of the ministry was required in the past, when radios and televisions were still rare in rural areas and when newspapers had not entered villages, home to a large portion of the population.

However, today radios are found everywhere, even in remote areas. Televisions and newspapers have entered villages as the number of illiterates has been decreasing. Thus people in rural areas can easily get the latest information, including information on the government's development programs.

Media operators now demand press freedom and the mass media has taken over part of the tasks of the information ministry. However, they only give one-way information, whereas the people, especially those in rural areas, need dialogs. Thus, officials who can cater to such needs are needed.

If the plan to reestablish the ministry is canceled to save funds, the government should appoint institutions or officials to serve rural communities by holding dialogs and giving information on government programs. The task can be entrusted to relevant ministers, high-ranking officials, heads of districts or subdistricts, or even village heads.