It’s not easy to be a president.
Journalists, good journalists, covering the life and times of politicians, occasionally are critical bullies. Actually not occasionally but most of the time. They have to be because it’s their mission to be necessary irritants to authorities. It’s their profession to keep an eye on people we vote in power.
Dictators can silence journalists. The media have a choice between abandoning their mission to be a public informer, betraying their profession and cringing in the face of the head of state and other authorities or they get sacked, jailed or killed for being critical. It’s quite different in a sound democratic environment. There journalists and authorities live in a hate-love relationship. Politicians need the press to communicate with society. Journalists need the politicians to get some scoops. Yet their interests often collide. One wants to accentuate the positive, the other craves for news people love to read:the rulers’ mistakes, scandals and, misfortunes. In this setting, the high and mighty essentially are at the mercy of those who report on their actions.
Poor SBY. Indonesia is a democracy.
What happened is this.
After his speech at the yearly routine in New York’s UN headquarters and the President’s co-chairing the ‘Post-2015 panel’, the reporters in stead focussed at SBY embarrassing himself at the press conference. He didn’t understand a question in English and failed to answer it. So what sticks is not the president brilliantly pitching Indonesia as an almost-super-power and standing firm defending a controversial proposal to let a world wide anti-blasphemy “law” ( factually a proposal called “Defamation of Religions”, which would forbid any criticism of Islam*) overrule freedom of speech. Rather the JP wrote he got himself ’lost in translation” because his command of English apparently failed him at one point. He may have felt he lost some face too. A tiny little bit. Yet perhaps in his view an awkward bit.
Shooting the reporter on the spot was not an option. Also questions should be asked if he would send special forces to raid the offices of the paper, apprehend the editor and issue a ban on publication . So I assume the president and his staff had a brainstorm session and came up with a this splendid idea. Police and violence may not be feasible weapons to deal with these nasty journalists, his heavenly allies are.
It’s always an advantage to have a hotline with the Almighty.
When SBY was flying home to Jakarta the accompanying bunch of weathered, cynical journos, scribes and stringers much to their surprise suddenly heard the head of state offering them a really extremely tempting bribe. Though perhaps some may have thought it was a threat to leave out in their imminent reports on SBY’s bungling the press conference . He announced via inflight intercom that he knew the easy way to Godly rewards for journalists: “To the press, deliver good news to the Indonesian people so that they are grateful that their country has reached a respectful position in the global arena…. You will get high pahala if you deliver the truth and good news”.
Yet I’m afraid it’s too late.. We already read the embarrassing but futile news in the sideline, had then forgotten about it. But now we know exactly all juicy details because he himself lime-lighted his little lapse in NY. So the topic is hot . And, oh dear, he in my opinion made it worse, much worse, by showing this lack of understanding of role and position of the media.
Well, keep up spirits. We all make mistakes. After all why shouldn’t we all believe Nietzsche who allegedly said ‘that which does not kill us…’. Yes, of course, he also knows the quote .
So the president will carry on as usual. And so will those necessary irritants.
* As for me on this issue I very much approve of this article in Jakarta Globe by Pramudya A Oktavinanda.