Subject: Soeharto 'Benefits' from Coverage, May Lead to Forgiveness: Media Observers

also: New Straits Times: Still in the minds, hearts of people

The Jakarta Post Friday, January 18, 2008

Soeharto 'benefits' from coverage

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Media observers and activists said Thursday the countless reports on Soeharto's ill health could evoke sympathy from the public, which would then lead to forgiveness over his alleged past crimes.

Chairman of the Alliance of Independent Journalists Heru Hendratmo said footage of Soeharto being carried on his bed through the hall, which depicted his weak condition and had been aired repeatedly by television stations, was a particular example.

"Pak Harto and his family get the most advantages of the 'over dose' of reports, which have somewhat ignored the condition of victims of his alleged crimes, including corruption and human rights abuses," Heru told The Jakarta Post.

"We can't let this happen.

"The truth must be revealed.

"Forgiving this one person will hurt million others," he said.

The Institute for Press and Development Studies, Ignatius Haryanto, said media coverage on Soeharto's illness "now purposely tended to evoke sympathy".

"On the other hand, not many media outlets, especially TV stations, have made critical reports on his alleged past crimes," Ignatius said.

Soeharto has been treated at Pertamina Hospital in South Jakarta since Jan. 4.

Communication and media expert Effendi Ghazali told the Post earlier Wednesday the "sympathy-evoking coverage" could spark questions around the lack of balance in reportage.

"Those who believe in the conspiracy theory will question media ownership," Effendi said.

The public may understandably wonder if Soeharto or his family is behind the media, he said.

Television stations including RCTI, TPI and Metro TV are connected either with Soeharto's family or his close companions.

A number of University of Indonesia (UI) graduates who are part of the 98 UI Big Family group said they wanted to remind the public of "the humanity destruction, the injustice and the under-development of people that took place during Soeharto's presidency and were results of his dictatorship".

The organization said in a written statement: "The coverage on his illness has been intentionally aimed at making the public forgive Soeharto and blinding them to his past mistakes".

Soeharto's family lawyer Juan Felix Tampubolon told the Post that during his several visits to the hospital, he had not heard Soeharto's family complain about the excessive media coverage.

Ignatius said other patients and their relatives who visited Pertamina Hospital could be disturbed by dozens of journalists overcrowding the building's main entrance every day over the past two weeks.

He said journalists "should know their place and not disturb the medical service provider's activities".

But one visitor to the hospital said he had "no problem" with journalists being at the hospital around the clock and said they seemed aware of hospital policies and rules.

"As a matter of fact, we (visitors) have a unique view with the journalists' activities here," Kemang resident Sugiono said.

Sugiono's family member was taken to hospital the same week as Soeharto.

"This is not something we can see every day," he said. (wda/uwi)

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New Straits Times (Malaysia) Friday, January 18, 2008

Still in the minds, hearts of people

AS former president Suharto lies dying at the Pertamina Hospital here, he continues to stir the people with the deepest of emotions. From adoration to revulsion, people pray for his recovery even as victims of his regime protest on the streets.

With his condition fast deteriorating, former student activists, who ousted him in 1998, threatened to descend on the hospital by the thousands to demand justice for his alleged human rights abuses, that have killed hundreds of thousands.

"We want to surround Pertamina Hospital. We want to ensure that Suharto is brought to justice for all who died during his rule," former student leader Adian Napitupulu told the New Straits Times on Wednesday.

Adian was one of the student leaders who led thousands in street protests that toppled Suharto.

"To date, we have gathered 800 people and more are coming from greater Jakarta and West Java. We expect thousands," said Adian.

On the other hand, people are gathering in villages and provinces to pray for his recovery.

"I have been praying for Suharto to get well. I like Suharto very much. He did a lot for my village," said 35-year-old domestic worker Sumirah.

Suharto led the country with an iron fist for 32 years and is the longest-serving leader in Asia.

Suharto brought rapid development to the country, lifting millions from a life of poverty.

At the same time, he is accused of gross human rights abuses and amassing US$45 billion (RM147 trillion) in corrupt money.

Human rights groups accuse Suharto of overseeing an anti-communist purge that killed between 500,000 and a million people, including the ethnic Chinese minority, when he came to power in 1965.

This was followed by the death of 200,000 when Indonesia invaded and annexed Timor Leste in 1975 and thousands more during his regime's crackdown on dissent.

Suharto is suffering from multiple organ failure and has developed sepsis, a life-threatening blood infection. He is unconscious and on a ventilator.

A former minister pleaded with the public to leave Suharto alone.

"I wish they would leave Suharto and his family alone so they can care for their father in his last days," former environment minister Sarwono Kusumaatmadja told the NST.

"These reformists only have the moral right to judge Suharto's reign if they have something positive to contribute to the country. But what have they done, except make a mess of things," Sarwono added.


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