‘This is One of the Best Times for Journalism’
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Interview

INTERVIEW

‘This is One of the Best Times for Journalism’


By THE JAKARTA GLOBE Monday, November 14, 2011


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They talked about the killings in Belfast— Bloody Sunday—and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Which is why if U2 were ever to give a concert in Indonesia, I would love to hear them talk about human rights abuses in West Papua.

Q: If you were to write about Jakarta, what would you say?

A: I’d like to write about the colorful ethnicities of Jakarta. The food like mie Aceh, jagung bose Flores, nasi kuning Ternate, babi Batu, and the people like the Talaud ethnic group, Sambasnese, Ambonese and Kandanganese. This diversity should be celebrated and maintained to avoid social breakdown in Indonesia. If the center is shaken, outer territories will lose balance. That’s why in a highly centralized country like Indonesia, moving the capital is not the answer. The key is to decentralize power.

Q: We’ve talked a lot about your writing — what about your reading?

A: I consider “Elements of Journalism” by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel as my favorite. I also like fiction such as Chaim Potok’s “My Name Is Asher Lev,” which also happened to be Gus Dur’s favorite book.

Q: You’ve mentioned Gus Dur twice. What connection did you have with him?

A: Indonesia is the way it is today because of his presidency in 1999. He—a liberal thinker, humanist and a human rights advocate—led one of the most important periods in Indonesia. He didn’t produce any laws that hurt his people. Because of that, people trusted Indonesia under his leadership. We owe him much more than we know. I once interviewed him and he fell asleep [laughs]. Awakened, he continued the interview without apologizing. I knew he was tired, so it wasn’t a big deal to me. Gus Dur was just being himself.



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