INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Jawa Pos: First Hand-Coverage of Burma Crisis, International

Published: Thu 25 Oct 2007 09:37 AM
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SUBJECT: JAWA POS: FIRST HAND-COVERAGE OF BURMA CRISIS, INTERNATIONAL
EVENTS
REF: SURABAYA 49
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This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.
1. (SBU) Summary: During a visit by the Surabaya Principal
Officer, Public Affairs Officer, and Public Affairs Assistant to
the Surabaya headquarters of the Jawa Pos Group October 19, Jawa
Pos editors and journalists described their efforts to provide
accessible and relevant news coverage to readers throughout
Eastern Indonesia. Jawa Pos deployed a team of journalists to
Burma and Thailand to provide on-the-spot coverage of the
developing crisis. Jawa Pos ran daily stories, analysis,
commentary and pictures, including critical editorials of the
Indonesian government's inaction. Jawa Pos officials explained
that it was important for Indonesian readers to see the strength
of peaceful demonstrations against unjust governments. Jawa Pos
has reported recently from Suriname, and currently has a
journalist reporting from Israel. End Summary.
2. (U) The Jawa Pos Group, or Jawa Pos News Network (JPNN),
publishes over 100 local newspapers from Aceh in Sumatra to
Jayapura in Papua. The combined readership makes Jawa Pos the
largest provider of news in Indonesia. Dahlan Iskan, the former
Surabaya bureau chief of TEMPO magazine, attained ownership of
Jawa Pos in 1982. Each regional paper makes its own editorial
decisions about which articles to publish, but liberally draws
on reporting from other Jawa Pos papers. JPNN has expanded into
TV, owning JTV in Surabaya, Batam TV in Batam, and Riau TV in
Pekanbaru. On October 19, Surabaya Principal Officer, PAO, and
PA Assistant visited the Surabaya offices of Jawa Pos, the
flagship newspaper of the organization with an average
circulation of 350,000 per day, to discuss the operating
philosophy behind the organization.
PUBLISHING THE PEOPLES' PAPERS
--------------------------------------------- -----
3. (SBU) The Jawa Pos Group prides itself on publishing
newspapers that are "peoples' papers" -- newspapers which
provide the news in a format that is accessible and interesting.
Chief Editor Rohman Budijanto described Jawa Pos as a "soap
opera" when compared to the "theater" offered by national rival
Kompas newspaper group. In recent years, Jawa Pos has struggled
to address criticisms that the Group was willing to sacrifice
accuracy for telling a good story. Today, under the motto
"selalu ada yang baru" (there is always something new), Jawa Pos
deploys its reporters to far-flung locations, including Burma,
Thailand, Israel, and Suriname, to provide first-hand accounts
of issues it deems relevant to its readers. Jawa Pos is unique
among Indonesian media organizations in its willingness to spend
money to send journalists to cover international issues and
events
4. (SBU) Budijanto explained why Jawa Pos had recently sent
reporters to Suriname, a country little known in Indonesia.
According to Budijanto, more than 20% of Suriname's population
is ethnically Javanese. This population immigrated during
Indonesia's and Suriname's Dutch colonial period, and speak a
purer form of Javanese than that of their Indonesian
counterparts. Jawa Pos's reporting has translated into an
upcoming visit to East Java by delegates from Suriname,
including the ethnic Javanese Speaker of Parliament.
COVERING THE CRISIS IN BURMA
--------------------------------------------- ----
5. (SBU) Jawa Pos's coverage of the protests and crackdown in
Burma is perhaps the most illustrative example of the newspaper
group's efforts to tell the entire story. Only one of two
Indonesian newspapers to send journalists to Burma and the
Thai-Burmese border to provide first-hand coverage of the
unfolding crisis, Jawa Pos ran daily articles, analysis,
commentary, and pictures on its front page and in its
international section tracking developments and international
reaction. Kardono Setyorakhmadi, one of the reporters who had
just returned from Burma and Thailand after three weeks on the
ground, joined our October 19 meeting.
6. (SBU) While the reporters were in Burma itself, Jawa Pos
protected their individual identities, ascribing reports to the
Jawa Pos team of reporters. In one such report, the Jawa Pos
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reported that a Burmese official in Shan Province had told the
Jawa Pos team that at least five generals and 400 soldiers had
been detained by the junta after they disobeyed orders to shoot
Buddhist monks near Mandalay. Kardono explained to us that
Burmese authorities restricted his movement to within the
borders of the Shan state, but that he was able to speak with a
wide range of local officials, activists, and refugees. After
his departure from Burmese territory, Kardono's reporting
appeared under his byline. His reporting from within Burma and
along the Thai-Burmese border provided powerful pictures and
personal accounts of midnight raids, detentions of monks and
civilians, and the junta's brutality. Another journalist, Tomy
Gutomo, filed reports based on interviews with individuals in
Rangoon.
7. (SBU) In addition to reporting on criticism of President
Yudhoyono and the Indonesian government by Jakarta politicians
for failing to take a firm stand against the military junta,
Jawa Pos carried extensive coverage of international reaction to
the demonstrations and subsequent crackdown. On October 8, Jawa
Pos published an editorial accusing Indonesia of failing to play
a leadership role in ASEAN or the UN Security Council on Burma.
POWER OF THE PEOPLE
----------------------------------
8. (SBU) Asked why Jawa Pos had decided to dedicate significant
resources to covering events in Burma, Budijanto explained that
Burma was not only a neighbor and member of ASEAN, but also that
Indonesia's position in ASEAN and the UN made the government's
response, or lack thereof, relevant to Jawa Pos readers. He
compared events in Burma to similar demonstrations in the
Philippines which had resulted in the overthrow of President
Marcos. During the Philippine crisis, Jawa Pos sent a reporter
to cover events and the paper's circulation doubled. Budijanto
elaborated that while the situations in the Philippines and
Burma were not parallel, and the psychological differences
between Buddhist Burma and Muslim Indonesia were relevant, it
was important for Indonesians to see the impact and strength of
people willing to demonstrate to overthrow a dictator.
ISRAEL AND WASHINGTON
---------------------------------------
9. (SBU) Coverage of the Burma crisis did not increase
circulation, but neither did circulation fall during the
extended Lebaran holiday season when most Indonesians returned
to their villages to celebrate the end of Ramadan with family.
Jawa Pos received positive feedback from its on-the-ground
reporting and plans to expand such coverage. A Jawa Pos
journalist traveled to Israel recently on an Israeli-sponsored
tour and has been filing stories from the road. The Jawa Pos
published an interview with Israeli FM Livni and other reporting
from Israel just before the Indonesia visit of Palestinian
President Abbas, reflecting some effort to present a balanced
picture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Budijanto said
that the journalist was given permission by his editors to stay
in the region longer to report on Middle East issues from other
countries.
10. (SBU) Jawa Pos has not had a journalist stationed in the
U.S. since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, but has sent a
journalist to cover an Islamic conference hosted by the Islamic
Society of North America in Chicago and sent journalists to the
U.S. on programs funded by the Foreign Press Center. Jawa Pos
is considering assigning a journalist permanently to Washington
to cover the U.S. presidential election.
MCCLELLAND
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