Mon, 01 Aug 1994

Magazine closures raise doubts about direction of openness

JAKARTA (JP): A noted political scientist says the recent revocation of publishing licenses for three news magazines raises doubts about the direction of the current drive towards political openness in Indonesia.

Daniel Dhakidae said Saturday he now doubted the sincerity of the campaign for openness currently being pursued, describing it as "a kind of political festivity in which we enjoy deceitful food".

During a discussion held at the office of Tempo, he said: "And to think that for years, we have greedily been eating that food."

Tempo was one of the three magazines which lost its publishing license in June.

The discussion, held to "mark" the 40th day since the closure, also saw noted economist Syahrir addressing the estimated 100 participants, including reporters and activists.

Besides Tempo, the other two magazines which lost their licenses in June were Editor and DeTIK. Tempo was closed because it ignored repeated government warnings on its editorial content. The other two were closed for violating the terms of their licenses.

Dhakidae, who has written a thesis on the political economy of the Indonesian press industry, said the three magazines, which had been part of the drive for openness, may have fallen victims to an illusion.

With the three magazines virtually resigned to accepting their death and to having to apply for new publishing licenses, Dhakidae said investors are now "shamelessly" rushing to offer their money to employ the journalists and the resources of the three publications. "This is a typical Indonesian situation of fatalism and optimism, resulting in pragmatism."

He said the nation may have lost more than simply three good magazines when they were closed down.

It may have sacrificed good journalism which is part of the Indonesian culture. A singularly ironic phenomenon at a time when the nation is campaigning to improve its human resources, he said.

DeTIK on Saturday night also organized a gathering to mark its 40th day since the closure. A number of foreign diplomats were also present at the gathering at DeTIK's office.

In Bandung, some 100 students gathered at the mosque of the Bandung Islamic University to mark the 40th day of the closures of the three magazines by holding mass prayers.

The Legal Aid Institute office in Bandung also issued a statement in connection with the day.

Meanwhile, another discussion was held at the office of the Media Indonesia daily.

Discussants talked about the concept of an "integral state" which was first broached in 1945 by Supomo, one of the nation's earliest thinkers on the concept of statehood.

Six speakers, including law professor Usep Ranawijaya and Marzuki Darusman of the National Commission of Human Rights debated the concept during the discussion on Saturday.

The meeting was held in connection with the launching of a book entitled Pandangan Negara Integralistik (Integral State Concept) written by physician-turned-political scientist Marsillam Simanjuntak.

The concept, believed to have a profound influence on the drafting of the 1945 Constitution, faced into obscurity once the nation won its freedom. But discussions of the topic have resurfaced in recent years.

All the speakers agreed that the book is an invaluable contribution to the understanding of the formation of the concept during the nation's infancy.

"I will designate this book as compulsory reading for my students," said Ranawijaya, who is a former leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party. (par/anr/hbk/pet/09)