The Media and Political Change in Southeast Asia
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The Media and Political Change in Southeast Asia

Karaoke Culture and the Evolution of Personality Politics

Jonathan Woodier

Jonathan Woodier’s latest work considers what impact the media has upon the democratization process in Southeast Asia. Has the media had a liberalizing effect or become subject to elite control in Southeast Asia and, if so, why? What role does the global media play in this process, particularly given its conglomerization and commoditization? By examining the communications media and its relationship to political change in Southeast Asia, this fascinating study will endeavour to provide both a regional comparative analysis and a more balanced interpretation of the mass communication media in the wake of September 11, 2001. The book also investigates the durability of authoritarian regimes and the enduring capacity of the media-controlled state alongside the growing sophistication of political communications – particularly the use of PR consultants.
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Chapter 6: Perning In the Gyre: Indonesia, the Globalized Media and the ‘War on Terror’

Jonathan Woodier


INTRODUCTION At the end of the twentieth century, there was an explosion of new titles in Indonesia’s media industry that followed a lifetime of authoritarian control. The end of the Suharto New Order and the initial post-1998 enthusiasm for reform unleashed a variety of competing interests in the country. Attempts, moreover, to restore central political control over a mass communication media, seen as both boon and bane, were showing few signs of success as the first decade of the new century drew to a close. The mass media offered Indonesia’s political elite the possibility of reaching a huge and geographically disparate audience. Freedom, however, in the wake of the fall of Suharto and the New Order, was an unfamiliar state of affairs, and they were turning to various methods both familiar and new, from corruption and violence to ownership and legal recourse, to try either to silence or control what the elite saw as unruly elements in the industry. Moreover, with the ‘war on terror’ adding weight to conservative forces seeking a more ‘responsible’ and controlled media, Indonesia looked set to follow some of its neighbours in resisting an open media and democratic pluralism. The chaos of competing interests left by the collapse of the Suharto regime transformed Indonesia, briefly, into the most democratic country in Asia, accompanied by the ‘blossoming of a free and aggressive local media after decades of suppression under Mr. Suharto . . . aiding civic activism, such as the fight against corruption’ (Mapes 2004). However,...

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