Indonesian journalists support Islamic fundamentalism: Survey

Jakarta, Indonesia - More than 50 percent of Indonesian journalists agreed that the religious sect Ahmadiyah and Playboy magazine should be banned, while sharia and anti-pornography laws should be enacted, a survey has revealed.

The Pantau Foundation, a Jakarta-based journalism research and training organization, conducted a survey in late 2009 about the influence of Islam, the nation’s principal religion, upon 600 journalists from mainstream newspapers, radio and television.

Using the multi-random sampling method, Muslims accounted for 85 percent of the survey’s respondents, while 7 percent were Protestants, 4 percent Catholics and 3 percent Hindus and others.

The survey showed that 64.3 percent of the respondents strongly agreed that the Ahmadiyah sect should be banned, even though 96 percent of them said giving a voice to the minority was their duty, and more than 70 percent of them agreed that human rights issues were important, said foundation head, Andreas Harsono.

“While most of the respondents acknowledged their journalistic principles, this survey tells us that their personal religious beliefs directly or indirectly influence their points of view on social and religious issues,” he said in the survey, which was launched on Wednesday.

The survey also found that 63.1 percent of respondents agreed on the implementation of the Anti-pornography Law; thus, relating to the law, Playboy magazine should be banned.

“Over 63 percent of the survey’s respondents believed the magazine should not be sold in Indonesia,”

he said.

Other than that, 63.5 percent of respondents agreed to the edict issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) stating that secularism, liberalism and pluralism were prohibited; 41.4 percent of them said that Muslim women should wear head coverings; and 37.6 percent supported the enactment of Islamic-based sharia law, including the punishment of flogging.

Andreas, who is also a member of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said that the inclination of journalists toward Islamic fundamentalism should be considered as an alarming sign for the nation’s future democracy and pluralism.

“Once journalists go outside their house, they have to leave their personal identities behind them and become news-seekers. It means that they have to put their profession before their religious beliefs or nationality,” he said.

“If a journalist ever takes sides, they should support the weak, the discriminated, and the untouched rather than follow the majority,” he added.

The Wahid Institute researcher Rumadi, who was also a speaker at the discussion, referred to the results of the survey as “the growth of silent fundamentalism”.

He said that everyone, including journalists, should be aware of, and worry about, such things.

“Honestly, the survey results don’t surprise me,” he said.

“Fundamentalism grows in silence but it can grow quickly in many sectors, including journalism.”

He added that journalists should increase their awareness on this matter because “journalism is one of the most essential components within civil society. Journalists’ views represent public opinion, and, at many times, can also influence it.”

Senior journalist and former head of the Indonesian Press Council, Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, who said that he had seen changes in society, hoped that journalism would return to its original, pure function.