Indonesia Culture

Indonesia Culture and Mass Media

Newspapers in Indonesia

According to EHEALTHFACTS.ORG, Indonesia is a country located in Asia. In Indonesia, there are close to 80 daily newspapers with a total circulation of about 4.7 million copies. The largest daily newspaper is the independent Catholic Compass with about 525,000 copies. – on Sundays close to a million. Other major newspapers are Media Indonesia (250,000 copies) and Suara Merdeka (200,000 copies) as well as the more sensational Pos Kota (500,000 copies) and Berita Buana (150,000 copies), all published in Jakarta. The total distribution of daily newspapers is limited (23 newspaper excl. Per 1,000 inv., 2000), but at the same time the distribution of non-daily newspapers is relatively large. There is no formal censorship, but criticism of the state leadership has been avoided due to frequent repeated harsh interventions in retrospect. After Suharto’s departure in 1998, greater freedom for the media was promised; inter alia

The state-owned company Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI, founded 1945) broadcasts in three channels, one of which is nationwide. In addition, there are just over 550 commercial local radio stations. Televisi Republic Indonesia (TVRI, founded in 1962) is state-owned and broadcasts national TV. Privately owned broadcasters were admitted in 1991, and there are now five commercial TV channels. Indonesia has 157 radio and 149 TV receivers per 1,000 residents (2000). The latter includes a number of appliances that the government has placed in the villages.


According to ANIMALERTS, the culture in Indonesia is characterized by the ethnic and religious diversity. The oldest preserved art from the 5th century AD is Hindu inspired. There are also many preserved Buddha statues. From the 600s to the 900s, combined temples and mausoleums were erected in volcanic stone and brick, so-called chandi. In Java, the large Buddhist complex Borobodur from the 700-800s belongs to the country’s sights. When Islam came to the country in the 12th and 13th centuries, the construction of the Hindu-Buddhist temples was to give way to the mosque construction.

Characteristic of the Indonesian music are the Gamelan orchestras with roots in animism (andrero), Hinduism and Buddhism. Gamelan music, played on a number of percussions, is calm and meditative in Java, while in Bali it is lively with strong tempo changes. Especially in Bali, many traditions have been preserved, such as the temple dances (legong), performed by girls who did not reach puberty.

Theater is popular. Many Hindu stories remain in the ancient shadow play wayang kulit, which is played with dolls. A later form of shadow play, wayang wong, is performed by actors with predetermined role types and played outdoors during the nights until sunrise. Modern Western theater is also staged in Indonesian theater scenes.

Religious literature dominated for a long time. It was not until Bahasa Indonesia became a widely accepted language in the 20th century that modern literature emerged. A common theme for the 1920s poets was the break between old traditions and modern Western thinking.

The country’s internationally best-known author is Pramoedya Ananta Toer (1925โ€“2006), who was imprisoned from 1965 to the late 1970s, accused of communist sympathies. His four-part romance suite about the birth of the national freedom movement was banned in Indonesia until 2001.

The visual arts range from traditional expressions such as wood carving and batik making to religious or modern painting.

Mass Media

The Constitution and a media law from 1999 guarantee freedom of the press and expression and prohibit censorship. The Indonesian media can generally operate freely and there is an open debate climate. However, there are a number of restrictions for the media.

Reporters Without Borders in 2018 described the media situation in the country as “difficult” and in the same year ranked Indonesia in place 124 out of 180 countries in its index of press freedom in the world. It was 22 better than 2012, but still among the worst third of the countries surveyed.

For example, the Indonesian media must show “respect for the religious and moral values โ€‹โ€‹of the public”. If they violate this principle, they may be fined. The bans on “spreading hatred of the government” and “insulting the president” were lifted in 2007. Instead, the Law of Defamation is more often used against journalists, as if they are being jailed, jeopardizing prison. This leads to self-censorship among media workers.

The government is no longer entitled to revoke the media companies’ licenses and the licensing of printed media is largely abolished. Until the spring of 2015, journalists had to have a special permit to visit Papua, where an armed conflict is ongoing (see Papua). In May that year, the government abolished the permit requirement.

One problem is that professional ethics among journalists is considered low. It is not uncommon for journalists to receive bribes. A special press council has been formed to establish ethical rules for journalists and receive complaints from the public.

It appears that journalists are being abused and harassed for practicing their profession. There is also information about murders of media workers.

With media reports about student demonstrations and the opposition’s demands for democracy, the media played an important role in Suharto’s fall in 1998. A large part of the coordination of student demonstrations and criticism of the regime took place via the Internet. Many newspapers have since established themselves online.

Internet use is widespread, especially in mobile phones. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are popular. However, a law on digital information and transactions (ITE) from 2008 has been heavily criticized by media organizations for restricting freedom of expression on the Internet and in social media. According to ITE, slander in digital media can give up to six years in prison.


Percentage of the population using the internet

40 percent (2018)

Number of mobile subscriptions per 100 residents

120 (2018)



More than 100 dead in earthquake in Aceh

December 6

An earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale hits the province of Aceh in northern Sumatra. More than 100 people are killed, around 700 are injured and about 84,000 become homeless.

Mass demonstration against Jakarta’s governor

December 2

More than 100,000 people are demonstrating in Jakarta against the city’s Christian and Chinese-chained mayor Basuki Tjahja Purnama, who is accused by Orthodox Muslims of forging Islam (see November 2016). The demonstration is the second of its kind and is organized by hard-line Islamic groups who want to prevent Purnama from being re-elected in the February 2017 governorship election.


Nine years in prison for the terrorist act in Jakarta

November 23

The militant Islamist Saiful Muhtorir, alias Abu Gar, is sentenced by an Indonesian court to nine years in prison for his role in the terrorist act in Jakarta (see January 2016). He is found guilty of weapons possession and of contributing to the financing of the attack.

Violent demonstration against Christian governor

November 4th

Tens of thousands of Muslims embark on a violent march in Jakarta against the mayor of the city who they believe has slandered Islam. Mayor Basuki Tjahja Purnama is a Christian and the city’s first Chinese governor. Ahead of the February 2017 governor elections, hardline Islamist groups have issued a quote from the Qur’an that they believe states that Muslims must not be led by non-Muslims. When Purnama went out and said that this was a lie, it was interpreted as questioning the Qur’an instead of the Islamists’ interpretation of the quote. His statement has sparked a storm of protest that has also received anti-Chinese elements. President Widodo condemns the “chaotic” demonstration and cancels a planned trip to Australia because of the troubled situation in Jakarta.


Three IS supporters are convicted of terrorist offenses

October 25th

Indonesian Ali Makhmudin is sentenced to eight years in prison for delivering explosives to the perpetrators who performed the terrorist act in Jakarta at the beginning of the year (see January 2016). Earlier in the year, some 40 people were arrested on suspicion of terrorist involvement, which killed eight people’s lives (four victims and four perpetrators). A few days earlier, Indonesian and IS sympathizer Dodi Suridi had been sentenced to ten years in prison for terrorist offenses and a third man was given four years in prison for similar crimes.

Chemical castration against pedophilia

October 10

Following a fierce debate in Parliament, a law is passed that allows pedophiles to be sentenced to chemical castration (to reduce the sex drive of an individual with drugs). President Widodo defends the law, saying that Indonesia will not compromise on child sexual abuse and that the law will eradicate pedophilia.


Wiranto becomes Minister of Security

July 30

In a government transformation, the controversial retired General Wiranto is appointed a new minister responsible for security matters. Wiranto has been charged with violation of human rights in connection with the outbreak of violence in East Timor in 1999, but he has never been convicted. Wiranto now leads Hanura’s own political party.

More executions are executed

July 28

Four prisoners, including three Nigerians, who are convicted of drug offenses are executed. These are the first executions that have been carried out since April 2015 when eight prisoners were arched in spite of loud protests from the outside world. This time, too, the executions are condemned by the UN and the EU, among others.

Militant Islamist leader killed

July 20

One of the country’s highest-ranking militant Islamist leaders, called Santoso, is shot dead by security forces at Sulawesi.


Sailors are kidnapped in the Philippines

June 24th

Seven Indonesian sailors are kidnapped by unknown perpetrators in the waters of the southern Philippines. It is the latest case in a series of similar kidnappings carried out by suspected criminal leagues in the Philippines. The Indonesian Ministry of Transport bans all Indonesian-flagged vessels from sailing into Philippine waters.

Widodo in power demonstration

June 24th

President Widodo visits a number of Indonesian outer islands. He is traveling with a warship. The visit is seen as a demonstration of power in light of the recent allegations of territorial water violations.

Dispute with China on fishing waters

17th of June

Indonesia shoots a number of fishing boats accused of fishing illegally on Indonesian waters. A Chinese boat is seized and seven Chinese crew are arrested. China is protesting, claiming that one of the crewmen was injured, which Indonesia denies.


Suspected mass graves should be excavated

May 9

Security Minister Pinjaitan appoints a new group to investigate information that about 122 mass graves in Java and Sumatra contain victims of the 1960s purges of alleged left-wing sympathizers (see April 2016). The information about the graves comes from an activist group called the Foundation for Research on the 1965 and 1966 Massacre Victims.

Widodo government is strengthened

May 2

Golkar’s 90 members in the lower house change sides from the opposition to the government. Thus, President Widodo’s coalition government achieves a two-thirds majority in parliament.


Yet another Chinese boat is seized

April 24

Indonesian authorities seize yet another Chinese trawler, suspected of illegal fishing in Indonesian waters.

New executions are planned

April 20

The Indonesian Minister of Justice announces that a series of executions are planned on Nusakambangan Prison Island. There are a number of foreigners and Indonesians sentenced to death for drug offenses. In 2015, 14 executions were carried out, including by foreign citizens convicted of drug smuggling.

The 1965 mass murder today

April 19

A conference is held between, among others, representatives of the security forces and relatives of victims of the 1965 massacres, when hundreds of thousands of people were murdered on suspicion of communist sympathies (see Modern History). After the conference, Minister of Security Luhut Panjaitan said that Indonesia must be reconciled with his past, but he ruled out an official apology. The initiator of the conference, retired General Agus Widjojo says at the meeting that the 1965 massacres have “torn apart” the country. He calls on the Indonesian government to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. On President Widodo’s orders, Panjaitan appoints an inquiry.


Dispute with China about fishing boat

March 19

An Indonesian patrol boat boards a Chinese fishing boat, located at the Natuna archipelago in Indonesian waters. Eight crew members are arrested and transferred to the patrol boat. A ship from the Chinese Coast Guard releases the Chinese fishing boat and sets off with it. Indonesia submits a formal protest to China and demands that the seized boat be returned. China says the fishermen were in “traditional Chinese fishing waters” but do not question that they are Indonesian territorial waters. China calls for the eight fish to be released but Indonesia announces that they will be brought to trial in Indonesia. The dispute disrupts the usually good relations between China and Indonesia, which unlike other Southeast Asian countries do not claim in areas of the South China Sea.

Tsunami Warning System Out of Service

March 1st

A major earthquake occurs off the west coast of Sumatra and panic spreads among residents as rumors suggest it triggered a tsunami. Rumor is false, but the tsunami warning system set up in the area after the 2004 tsunami disaster does not prove to work properly.


Twenty-seven fishing boats are lowered

February 22

Indonesian authorities lower 27 foreign fishing boats caught fishing illegally in the country’s fishing waters. The boats come from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Myanmar (formerly Burma). Four Indonesian fishing boats have also been lowered since the crew did not have proper documentation. The strike against illegal fishing has caused tensions in relations with other countries, especially when a Chinese ship was sunk in 2015. But President Widodo says the measures are justified as illegal fishing costs the state billions of dollars in dollars each year. Since Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti took office in 2014, she has been running a tough campaign against illegal fishing in Indonesian waters. In total, more than 170 illegal fishing boats have been lowered since 2014.

IS sympathizers are imprisoned

February 9

An Indonesian court sentenced seven men to between three and five years in prison for participating in the Islamic State’s (IS) extremist movement. Four of the convicts had traveled to Syria to receive military training from IS and three of them had helped IS to obtain airline tickets to sympathizers and recruited fighters to the group. Indonesian authorities fear hundreds of Indonesians have traveled to Syria to assist IS in its struggle to create a worldwide caliphate.

Economic growth is declining

February 5

Indonesia’s economic growth for 2015 stops at 4.76 percent. This means that growth has declined for five consecutive years. The declining growth is mainly due to weaker prices for the country’s export goods as well as falling domestic private consumption. In addition, the slowdown in China’s economy is having a negative impact on Indonesia, which carries on a lot of trade with China. President Widodo promised in his 2014 accession that annual growth would be raised to 7 percent.


Terrorist attack in Jakarta

On January 14, Jakarta is hit by a series of bombings, with eight dead as a result. Six explosions detonate in the area around Jalan Thamrin, where there are both shopping centers and embassies and UN offices. Among the dead are four perpetrators and four civilians (three Indonesians and one Canadian). Two of the assailants are shot dead by police inside a mall, while two others release their explosive belts and blast themselves into the air. President Widodo condemns the deed, which he describes as a terrorist act. According to Indonesian police, a local terrorist group with ties to the Islamic State stands(IS) behind the deed. Later that day, IS takes on the debt. Indonesia has been in high readiness since the New Year weekend when threats of terrorist acts should have come from IS. During the days immediately following the terrorist attack, police arrest twelve suspects in raids conducted around the country. One of the arrested should be financed by the deed, and according to the police, the money comes from IS (for more information on militant Islamism in Indonesia read here).

Ex-rebels surrender

More than a hundred former GAM rebels, who have been hiding in the jungle since the 2005 peace agreement and committed serious crimes there, capitulate, according to an official Indonesian source.

Indonesia Culture

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