Tuesday, July 5, 2016
For more than 30 years the media in Indonesia have been largely influenced and determined by local authorities. Especially now that the country is developing from a social point of view, there is a great need for independent media as watchdogs of democracy. These are the words of Eni Mulia of PPMN Indonesia, a non-profit organisation working for professionalism within journalism and access to information.

What does PPMN do?

'PPMN was set up in 2006 to develop projects to build media capacity. We do so by setting up radio and TV in remote areas, providing emergency relief to local media in areas hit by natural disasters and producing various programmes. PPMN also organises specific trainings and publishes books on media and journalism.'

Why is this important?

'There is a need for the media to become more professional. For a long time information channels were in the hands of companies and their commercial interests were put first. People have become more critical since the student movement in 1998. Citizens want to have their voices heard. A neutral platform, and hence professional independent media, is vital for that. The media are the watchdogs of democracy.'

'In addition, we support the media in disaster areas: think earthquakes and floods. In times of crisis getting information out fast can be a matter of life and death. We support the rebuilding of radio stations in stricken areas.'

What are you most proud of?

'I’m particularly happy and proud when I see journalists working in a different, more independent way. There are more and more well-trained, professional journalists. Good journalism has a positive impact on society.'

What sort of impact do you mean?

In Papua, for instance. We set up radio stations in remote areas where they never even used to have electricity. The radio stations run on micro hydro, which generates power from the flow of water, like a river. The inhabitants have had access to information through those radio stations since 2007. And so the inhabitants now also have electricity in their own homes.'

'Inhabitants who have radio not only have access to information but also the possibility of raising their problems. An example of this is a state school that was abandoned by the teachers and closed down. Mothers gathered at the local radio station, the local authorities heard about the situation in a radio broadcast and told the teachers to return.'

What is your dream for the future?

'My dream is that more and more journalists and media will be able to bring the news in an honest, independent and professional way. This sounds very simple, but in practice it takes time and perseverance. It is also a financial challenge, many independent media do not survive. So the choice is either give up or join large existing media that have ties with the politicians or the business world.'

'I also hope for greater safety within journalism. Intimidation creates a lot of unrest and uncertainty. Journalists who report corruption may receive threats from local leaders. Not only the journalists themselves but also their families are watched closely.'