Subject: SCMP: Jakarta's media fan flames of hatred

South China Morning Post Monday, October 11, 1999


Jakarta's media fan flames of hatred


As Australian-led troops struggle to restore order and peace to East Timor, another battlefront is raging in Jakarta as local media fuel the fires of contempt among Indonesians for anything Australian.

While every newspaper outside Indonesia reported last Thursday that Australian troops had killed two pro-Jakarta militiamen in East Timor, the country's leading daily, Kompas, ran its story under the headline "Australian troops admit killing two Timorese residents".

The story was plucked from the state news agency, Antara. It claimed Australian troops shot into a group of returning refugees.

Three days after the foreign troops arrived in the ravaged territory, Antara reported that the troops had burned a militiaman to death. The next week, an English-language daily, the Indonesian Observer, said the troops tore down an Indonesian flag in Liquica, west of the East Timorese capital, Dili.

The evening newspaper Terbit ran a picture of charred bodies found in a burned-out truck in Dili with the caption saying they were set alight by the Australian troops. Foreign media reported that the bodies were victims of militia terror.

"It is a misinformation campaign," said Colonel Duncan Lewis, of the Australian Department of Defence.

"We deny emphatically that those atrocities had been carried out."

Lukas Luwarso, chairman of Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent Journalists, said the Indonesian press voluntarily whipped up nationalist sentiment.

"Another reason is the low level of professionalism among Indonesian journalists," he said. "They tend to swallow whatever information they get."

There have also been reports that peacekeepers have discriminated against Indonesian reporters, asking them for IDs or conducting body searches, while foreign reporters are exempted.

Colonel Lewis insisted his troops did not discriminate against any journalists.

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