No easy way in the battle against misinformation

In light of the recent 22 May riots in Jakarta, the Ministry for Communication and Information (KOMINFO) enacted a “soft ban” on social media and messaging applications. Instagram and Facebook were blocked (surprisingly, Twitter was left alone), while WhatsApp users could not share images or documents (but could still receive and send text messages). The three-day ban was a preventive response to potential misinformation surrounding the Jakarta riots. However, despite the ban, as much as 30 pieces of fake news still fell through the cracks. The ban was also easily circumvented using VPN services. The ban has been criticized left and right on grounds of infringement of civil liberties.

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Semtext #7: Disinformation and Indonesia’s 2019 Election

This SemText summarises the real and perceived challenges in Indonesia’s upcoming 2019 election, particularly regarding disinformation and candidate electability.

Throughout 2018 and early 2019, the Presidential Race was a doozy to follow. Political allegiances, according to the media and some observers, have shown to break up families and disharmonize supposedly “neutral” places like schools and places of worship. The stakes in this election are high, as some may put: continue with economic development or risk returning to New Order practices?

One thorny issue that has piqued the interest of the public is the widespread use of disinformation by both sides. How is disinformation used? What are the effects? These are some the questions that the panel addressed.

One note on format. In this SemText, I’ll move in and out from summary to commentary. While this may be confusing, I’ll do my best to denote which is the speaker’s voice and which is mine.

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The first Indonesian Presidential Debate of 2019: a review

The first Presidential Debate was concluded on 17 January 2019. In the debate, centering on issues of human rights, corruption, law enforcement, and terrorism, both parties did not perform satisfyingly, but Joko Widodo could be said to have won by a slight margin.

In this post, I’ll do a thematic blow-by-blow of the debate with added commentary.

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THOUGHTS AND COFFEE #12: Communist-phobia still going strong in Indonesia

Time and time again, Indonesia has seen many political outbursts due to the inflated fear of the Red Spectre of Communism. The most recent outburst occurred at a Lembaga Bantuan Hukum (Legal Aid Institute) in Jakarta following a seminar discussing the 1965 Communist massacre. The office was surrounded by protestors, entrapping the participants inside the walls. Most of those participants were the elderly – survivors and witnesses to the bloody pogrom that marked an important watershed in Indonesian politics. It was not until the following day that participants were allowed to leave, but the damage had already been done.

Involved in this incident were anti-Communist groups and a number of right-wing organisations, such as Front Pembela Islam. This incident indicates the continued stigma of Communism in Indonesia, a result of decades of indoctrination during the New Order.

The LBH office suffered some physical damage; however, I believe we can agree that the damage to Indonesia’s budding democracy should take centre stage.

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Le’ Notes #31: Theoretical interpretations of Indonesia’s politics

This post discusses the theoretical interpretations of Indonesian politics from the New Order to the ongoing Reformasi era.

The first leg of my journey starts with understanding the different theoretical interpretations of Indonesia’s political system. Most of the scholarly work on Indonesia is focused on the New Order: its genesis, peak, and violent crumble. The market for Indonesian history is practically saturated with New Order stuff with a bit of Sukarno on the side and the colonial and ancient times (the lattermost nobody really cares about at this point, but is slightly important nonetheless). In this summary, I’ll go through the various schools of interpretation, which were mostly conducted by Western academics.

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THOUGHTS AND COFFEE #4: Towards a ‘greener’ Indonesia?

In October 2016, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) launched their first demonstration against Jakarta’s Chinese-Christian governor, Basuki Purnama, or better known as “Ahok”. Their chant was to not let Jakarta — a city that is by character pluralistic although Muslims and Javanese make up the majority — be governed by a leader who is not Muslim and Javanese. They quoted scripture, specifically a verse from the Quran (Qs. Al-Maidah: 51), which they interpret does not allow Muslims to elect or be led by a leader who is not a Muslim.

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