The British press in Indonesia.
I am an admirer of the writings of John Aglionby, the Guardian's south-east Asia correspondent based here in Indonesia. His writings about Jakarta
, the aftermath of the Aceh tsunami
and political occurences demonstrate a keen observance of Indonesian nuances.
Although we have yet to meet, I am aware that he is married to a Javanese lady
and is, therefore, attuned and accustomed to life here, although I'm not sure if he reads Jakartass.
What I am sure, though, is that he will have read an article in today's Jakarta Post
by my long-term friend, Dave Jardine, who is sometimes referred to as Jalan Jaksa's John Pilger.In this article
, Dave looks back at how the British press covered events in Indonesia in 1945-1946.In late September 1945 a British force arrived in Batavia
(now known as Jakarta); mission, to find and secure Allied POW and internees held by the Japanese in Java and Sumatra and to demobilize the Imperial Japanese forces.
In their wake came a small number of British reporters. The British press was about to enter a situation as unknown to them as it was to the British military. They had an equal unfamiliarity with the land and its people; major shocks awaited them.
It is historically instructive to look back at the way the British papers covered the "Indonesia crisis of 1945-1946". Reporters, few of them with any Malay language skills and none of them with Javanese or Sundanese, were pitched into the world's first post-World War II liberation struggle.
The British papers showed an immediate tendency to interpret Indonesian nationalism simply as a function of wartime Japanese propaganda. This mis-reading of the situation would lead them to repeat the Dutch line that President Sukarno and Vice President Mohammad Hatta were simply "quislings" of the Japanese.
Would the media coverage be any different today? A moot point. Would the British insist on embedding reporters and TV crews? Certainly at one point the foreign press corps was moved to protest British military censorship of "the most vicious kind". There are enterprising reporters today who might have been prepared to take great risks to get a deeper story but that too is debatable.
There is more and this could well add a chapter to Dave's fine, albeit slim, volume about the British military's involvement in the birth pangs of Indonesia's independence, Foreign Fields Forever
What say you, John?