Politics and Media Relations: Prioritas Tragedy (1987)


By Takhta Pandu Padmanegara

On June 1987, The Freedom of Indonesian Journalism threatened by the closing of lively daily Prioritas, which was owned by Suryapaloh. The banned of Prioritas was caused by the contents that were considered too sensitive and naked.

The official tone was set by a commentary in the Angkatan Bersenjata (Armed Forces Daily) edition of October 14, 1986, that said the government was prepared to sacrifice any newspaper deemed to have jeopardized the national interest.

The closing of Prioritas in 1987 was a famous case in Indonesia. The military detained the newspaper publisher and editor, and some reporters, and interrogated and intimidated them. With no legal justification, the government permanently shut down Prioritas. Management later petitioned the Indonesian Supreme Court to reopen the paper, but the case was thrown out on a technicality, and the paper was never reopened.

During 30 years under New Order era, former President Soeharto controlled media using permission regulation, such as printed permit (SIC), publishing permit (SIT), and press company permit (SIUPP). Through these permissions, former government controlled the press. When the press critics was not danger their power, they only sent warrant letter or remaining signs to the media by phone. Usually, this way is used by new order officers when they didn’t like an article published.

When the critics crossed the threshold, the harder treatment would be implemented. Government judged that these media had been already danger the national stability. In Prioritas case, the Government in that Era, which is New Order Era, didn’t want to lose their power. According to Dewey, the government had been done the public’s fair distraction.

In mass media, there is a social power. Social power here will be summarily defined as a social relation between groups or institutions, involving the control by a (more) powerful group or institution (and its members) of the actions and the minds of (the members) a less powerful groups (Teun A. Van Dijk; Power and the News Media). Consequently, if the government wants to get that power to control the society, they should control the media.

However, most Indonesian press problems during the new era order were in the interaction difficulties between press, who take the social control roles, and the government, who wanted to keep their power.

1. Manan, Abdul and Lensi Mursadi. 2005. Indonesian Press under Repression. AJI (Aliansi Jurnalis Independen). IFJ Conference, Taiwan.
2. Van Dijk, Teun A. Power and the News Media. University of Amsterdam.
3. http://www.wikipedia.org

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