Thursday, January 30, 2014
Jokowi becomes magnet for international coverage of RI
Despite the frequent occurrence of such issues, however, it can be challenging to relay the information to international readers.
“There is not enough room to include all Indonesian news. The New York Times does not cover countries on a daily basis except for some like China and American domestic politics. So, what I do is take a step back and look at the larger issues in Indonesia”, said Joe Cochrane from The New York Times.
Cochrane and Samuel Reeves from Agence France-Presse (AFP) discussed the difficulties of getting the attention of international audiences and the benefits of working in such an open media landscape at a lecture on Tuesday. A challenge for foreign correspondents is the necessity to write differently for American audiences than they would for Asian audiences.
“That puts a bit of pressure on me to not only think about the Asian readership or European readership of The New York Times but also the American readership. Occasionally I try to think about issues that an Asian audience might not care about, but that New York readers would and readers in Washington, DC,” said Cochrane.
The lead-up to the election is an exciting time for journalists throughout Indonesia. However, presenting the campaign to the outside world is difficult especially in a year with 17 government elections.
Both Reeves and Cochrane believe Jokowi, who is being touted as a presidential candidate, should be a story of international interest. Jokowi represents a figure of today, a big break from the past.
“[He] is a political phenomenon. As a foreign correspondent you have an obligation to write about this guy, it’s incredible what he’s done,” said Cochrane, adding that people would read a story about Jokowi in Tokyo or Beijing and be interested.
However, he added that Jokowi would not get the same interest in other continents. He did not think the US or Europe was paying too much attention to Indonesia or Jokowi on a regular basis.
“But I like to give people a little bit of an idea of who he is and what’s happening in Indonesia”, said Cochrane.
“It’s Jokowi versus all these old faces. Ask someone in Britain about Indonesia and I’m afraid they will say Soeharto because that’s the only figure they can relate to,” said Reeves, the news editor and deputy bureau chief of the AFP’s Jakarta office.
In spite of these difficulties, gaining access to contacts whether they be politicians or government officials is a treat in Indonesia.
“[Indonesia] is a pleasure to cover. People are very open and very friendly. Access to officials and ministers is incredibly easy. I’ve worked in the UK before and you can’t just call up the foreign minister,” said Reeves.
Despite Papua being off limits for foreign journalists, Cochrane said that he found Indonesia to be quite open and safe for coverage. Unless you are a local journalist that is.
“Freedom of movement here is fine. I’ve never had major issues with the government. I haven’t had any official complaints. Local journalist would face far more threats because as a foreign correspondent there is a bit of light on you and I think there is a bit of artificial protection. Safety of local journalists is certainly an issue,” he said.
The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.
Arielle Milecki, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | World | Thu, January 30 2014, 10:59 AM