Wed, 24 Jul 1996

Western journalists

I have noticed in a couple of recent letters that Farid Baskoro does not approve of western journalists. In fact, the poor western journalist cannot win. If he writes that "the Indonesian government is guilty of human rights abuses", Mr. Baskoro will berate him for being biased against Indonesia. But if he writes that "Indonesia could be producing supersonic aircraft within twenty years", Mr. Baskoro will call him a sarcastic racist with a superiority complex!

In his first letter, Mr. Baskoro leveled just this charge at a reporter who asked B.J. Habibie whether he had any plans for a supersonic or hypersonic flight program. Now, this was a perfectly reasonable question. Habibie is a relatively young man of great influence, drive and vision, with a known interest in supersonic and hypersonic aviation.

Granted, the question has ulterior significance. If he does indeed aspire to launch a program to produce supersonic aircraft, this could have great impact on Indonesia's industrial policy, on the international aviation industry, and, in military terms, on Indonesia's capacity to produce its own frontline combat aircraft.

So, the reporter in question was acting professionally, asking a pertinent question likely to elicit a newsworthy quote or information. Why then, does Mr. Baskoro suggest that the reporter had a superiority complex? And even if he did have a feeling of superiority, why would he want to waste his time at an important press conference trying to show it off? And even if he did want to show it off, why would he choose to do so by asking what every other person in the room, except Mr. Baskoro, would take to be a perfectly sensible and normal question?

In his second letter, Mr. Baskoro implies that many western journalists are anti-Indonesian, or anti-Asian, and mentions three culprits, who include John Pilger. I have read several articles by John Pilger, including one in which he accused the Indonesian army of human rights abuses in East Timor.

I have also read others, accusing the Myanmar government of exploiting forced labor, accusing several European governments of lying about their selling of weapons to Iraq and accusing the American government of assisting the Khmer Rouge.

I have even read an article in which he accused Hollywood filmmakers of failing to portray atrocities committed by American soldiers in Vietnam and of failing to show the heroism of the Vietnamese people during their war against the U.S.

In short, John Pilger has many accusations to make about evils to be found in many things, such as torture, forced labor, government hypocrisy, aid for terrorists and the failure of many Americans to face the truth about their occupation of Vietnam. But it would be a gross distortion to conclude that he was anti- Indonesian. After all, if he were anti-Indonesian, why would he be so concerned about the sufferings of Indonesian citizens?