Indonesia: Jokowi Calls on Media to Combat Fake News

Tajudin Buano
Ambon, Indonesia
170209_ID_Hoax_1000.jpg Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (center) bangs a drum to celebrate National Press Day in Ambon, Maluku province, Feb. 9, 2017.
Tajudin Buano/BenarNews

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Thursday called on Indonesian mainstream media and other outlets to help filter out fake news reports or hoaxes that can spread fear and create social divisions when disseminated through social media.

While speaking to journalists who gathered for a National Press Day event in Ambon, Maluku province, the president urged Indonesians to be wise in reading the news and discerning fake content from factual reporting – particularly content published on Facebook and other social media platforms.

“I have faith that this will actually make us more mature and stronger. So we do not need to complain a lot when we hear things on social media, as this is a phenomenon of all countries,” he told the crowd in Ambon, a multi-ethnic region that, in the past, saw inter-religious violence between the province’s Muslim and Christian communities.

Jokowi himself was the target of fake news reports while he was campaigning for the presidency in 2014. Fake reports then suggested that he was of Chinese descent – a veiled reference to Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese minority  – and they even linked him to the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

“Fake news that is propagated through social media becomes a heavy burden for government. Social media also gives governments headaches. This is what I heard from prime ministers and presidents I met,” he said.

“There is news that brings commotion,” Jokowi added. “It divides society and even threatens the unity of the nation.”

Jokowi first declared war on fake news and hoaxes last year.

“Slander, hatred and rude words on social media are increasingly troubling people,” Jokowi tweeted in December. “We need determined and tough law enforcement.”

Jokowi then announced plans to set up a National Cyber Agency that would combat fake news while securing the internet from potential hacking.

This move came after the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in November blocked 11 websites in Indonesia over concerns that they contained hate speech, radical content or provoked sectarian sentiments.

Last month, a group calling itself the Indonesian Community of Anti-Slander Research was established to challenge hoaxes disseminated over the internet.

Press Council

Fake news threatens mainstream media because it spreads hatred, Yosep “Stanley” Adi Prasetyo, the head of Indonesia’s Press Council, an independent body established to protect press freedom, told BenarNews.

“People have a hard time distinguishing which is real news and which is a hoax because lots of news is produced by sites claiming to be professional news websites,” Stanley said.

“The values of the noble profession of journalists must be returned to the journalists who have the competence and have committed themselves to the code of ethics of the profession,” he added.

Anticipating the rise of fake news, the council plans to join with other journalism organizations to form an anti-hoax institution.

In addition, the council continues to certify the credentials of news organizations, having issued a barcode to 77 organizations that meet the ethics code.

“This is just the kick off. The press council will continue the verification process in the next two year,” he explained.

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) noted that many organizations have not passed the verification process but meet ethical standards.

“In our opinion, [the certification program] received mixed reactions, mostly negative. This is because of the lack of socialization in the press community,” AJI chairman Suwarjono said in a statement.

Ahok targeted

Among those who have allegedly been targeted by fake content is Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, the governor for Jakarta who is running for election on Feb. 15 but who is on trial over a blasphemy charge for a speech he made on the campaign trail in September.

In the speech, he quoted a verse from the Quran that was seen as insulting Islam. A video clip of the speech that was disseminated online went viral on social media and angered Muslims, but, in his testimony, Ahok claimed that the clip was edited in a way that distorted his words.

Ahok has said he never intended to offend Muslims when he cited the Surah Al-Maida Verse 51 from the Quran. Some interpret the passage as barring Muslims from having non-Muslim leaders.

Since the story broke, conservative Muslims held three massive demonstrations demanding Ahok be jailed for allegedly demeaning the Quran.

Stories also targeted Ahok’s ethnicity as a member of Indonesia’s Chinese minority. Reports included rumors that 10 million Chinese workers are coming to Indonesia or that a military leader has said communist China has started to meddle in Indonesia, a comment the general denies making.


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