Muted Voices: Censorship and the Broadcast Media in Indonesia

Article 19
01 June 1996

June 1996
ISBN 1 870798 02 3

Excerpt from Article 19's "Censorship in the Broadcast Media"

One of the best known examples of this occurred in the case of Perspektif, a weekly talk show produced for SCTV by an independent production house. In September 1995, the show was suddenly axed without warning. SCTV executives denied that this was the result of political pressure by the government, but well-placed sources within the television station contradicted this. They reported that a high ranking Ministry of Information official had telephoned one of SCTV's owners to complain about the show, which has already received a number of discreet warnings from the government, and called for it to be dropped. The owner is then said to have spoken to the station's management, who agreed to axe the programme and informed the production company of their decision.

Wimar Witoelar, who presented Perspektif, described the show as "a forum where people get away from slogans and the standard euphemisms", but has no doubt that its content and style would be considered unremarkable and uncontroversial in many other countries. The programme's format was one of interviews with individuals from many different walks of life, including lawyers and jurists, economists, artists and others, but its style was unusual given the political caution which normally characterizes the Indonesian broadcast media. It encouraged open and free-flowing discussion among those participating about a variety of issues, from politics and economics to the arts and daily life. As a result, it soon acquired a reputation for being politically brave, and developed a strong following.

Two Perspektif programmes, in particular, got the show into difficulties before it was finally scrapped. The first was an interview with Abdurrahman Wahid in early 1995, which SCTV executives announced would not be screened as planned citing, "technical reasons". The second, later in 1995, involved a judge, Benjamin Mangkoedilaga, who was then head of the Jakarta Administrative Court, and occurred only a few weeks after he had unexpectedly, and controversially, ruled against the government in a case brought by Goenawan Mohamad, the former editor of Tempo magazine. Effectively, the judge had decided that Harmoko, the powerful Information Minister, had acted wrongly when he withdrew the publishing licences of Tempo and two other weeklies in June 1994 in order to prevent their further publication. Prior to Judge Mangkoedilaga's ruling, knowing that court judgments seldom go against the government in Indonesia, few had imagined that he would rule in Tempo's favour — so when he did so, he was hailed by many as having taken a brave stand. Again, when they announced that the show would not be broadcast as planned, SCTV executives were quick to deny suggestions that they had caved in to official pressure, insisting that the interview was simply being delayed. Significantly, however, it has yet to be screened. Moreover, the respected bi-weekly magazine, Forum Keadilan, reported that an Information Ministry official had telephoned one of SCTV's major shareholders and "requested" that the programme not be shown. It was also suggested that the authorities had been prompted to take action by the publication of an article about Wimar Witoelar's interview with Benjamin Mangkoedilaga in Merdeka, an Indonesian-language daily newspaper, on the day before the interview was to be screened. The article was headlined, "Tomorrow Night SCTV's Perspektif Presents the `Hero' of Justice". ("Perspektif SCTV Besok Petan Hadirkan `Pahlawan' Keadilan")

The last straw for the authorities, as far as Perspektif was concerned, appears to have been an interview with journalist and author, Mochtar Lubis, who is well-known as an outspoken critic of the government. Although he did not say anything in the interview that was more critical or controversial than comments he had previously made in newspapers and magazines, it seems that the periodic airing of views unsympathetic to the government in Perspektif programmes had now become too much for the Information Ministry to tolerate. Shortly after the interview with Mochtar Lubis was screened, SCTV announced that Perspektif had been dropped even though less than half of the 26 programmes originally scheduled had been shown.

The sudden scrapping of the Perspektif television show prompted considerable publicity as well as protests from viewers. The show's host, Wimar Witoelar, responded to requests from a number of groups by hosting a series of shows called Perspektif Live before live audiences in several cities. Since then, a related show entitled Perspektif Baru, or New Perspective, has been syndicated to over two dozen regional newspapers and radio stations in 18 cities across the country. In Jakarta, however, one radio station, M 97, has already terminated its transmission of Perspektif Baru, apparently after coming under pressure from the authorities to do so. After only four or five programmes of the series had been broadcast, M 97 informed the programme makers that the show was causing the radio station a number of problems and that certain unnamed but influential people were asking questions about the programme. Not long afterwards, in March 1996, M 97 announced that the series was being halted. The station manager insisted that the decision had been taken purely for internal reasons, related to programme scheduling problems. In fact, however, according to a well informed source with close links to the station, M 97 had been pressurised to drop the show, for political reasons, by the representative body for private radio, to which all private radio stations must belong, and also by military intelligence and other government officials.

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  1. From keket on 27 September 2006 13:12:50 WIB
    hmm, I just knew it, but I believe it wasn't the first case that happened in Indonesia.
    It was show the strength of the authority, which was a public issue.
    SCTV took a chance to be a “hero” for Indonesian society, and it already written in the Indonesian Democracy history
    bagaimana mo maju negara ini??
  2. From Daisy on 27 September 2006 16:40:24 WIB
    It was the begining of all the stories...

    Kalo pemerintah ngga menghentikan Talk Show Perspektif, ngga akan ada Perspektif Baru dan sindikasinya yang sangat luas saat ini. Ngga akan ada Selayang Pandang, yang menghasilkan Panasonic Award. Ngga akan ada Perspektif Online, yang sekarang terpilih menajdi 10 Blog pilihan Tempo :)

    So... I believe that everything happened is No Regret!

    Tul ngga?
  3. From lena on 29 September 2006 16:45:49 WIB
    Waktu Perspektif muncul di SCTV jam tayangnya juga hari Sabtu jam 6 sore kalau ngak salah menjelang magrib, jadi lagi asyik-asyiknya nonton kepotong sama adzan dan harus milih, sholat dulu atau terusin nonton, yang satu wajib dilaksanakan yang satunya lagi sayang buat ditinggalin, jadi seperti dilema, hehehehehe, tapi dasar manusia lebih cinta duniawi, akhirnya nonton dulu, habis takut kehilangan satu episode. (Terus terang saat itu satu-satunya talkshow yang sangat bermutu, berani dan terbuka membuat kita yang menonton terbawa untuk bersuara mengkritik pemerintahan saat itu, jadi wajar saja kalau pemerintahan saat itu merasa talkshow itu sebagai ancaman buat merka. Salut buat keberanian WW saat itu, kalau sekarang banyak orang berani ngomong sih ngak kaget.

  4. From wimar on 29 September 2006 19:22:32 WIB
    selainb pilihan sholat atau nonton, pada waktu itu juga lena punya pilihan ketiga, yaitu menulis skripsi ya hehe

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