Asia - Pacific
Index 2024
111/ 180
Score : 51.15
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Economic indicator
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Index 2023
108/ 180
Score : 54.83
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Since the democratic transition that began in 1998, hundreds of independent media outlets have emerged, making Indonesia a pioneer in this domain in Southeast Asia. But they struggle to meet the needs of the 275 million Indonesians who are spread over 12,000 islands and speak more than 800 languages. The immensity and diversity of the country make respect for press freedom a daily battle.

Media landscape

Press freedom was non-existent during President Suharto’s long reign from 1966 to 1998. Today, the number of journalists is estimated at 100,000 and more than 300 newspapers are published, such as the daily Kompas, the newspaper of record, and the weekly Tempo, which has built a solid reputation for investigative journalism. TV is a major news source, with many privately owned networks, such as Indosiar, SCTV and Metro TV, which compete, at the national level, with the state broadcaster, Televisi Republik Indonesia (TVRI). Given the great geographic isolation of part of the population, radio plays a key role in the transmission of information. There are more than 3,000 radio stations broadcasting in about 20 languages, in addition to Bahasa Indonesia, the national language. 

Political context

The 2024 general elections are a crucial moment for press freedom in Indonesia. Despite his reformist programme, outgoing President Joko Widodo’s ten years in office have been marked by a series of broken promises as regards press freedom. His second term was also marked by concessions to the ultra-conservative armed forces, known officially as the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI). The TNI carefully prevent the media from covering their use of force to suppress separatist protests in the three provinces that make up Papua, the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea, which continues to be an information black hole where journalists cannot work.

Legal framework

The 1999 press law ended the Suharto era’s censorship and control of information and led to the creation of the Dewan Pers, an independent press council that has been able to settle most media-related disputes out of court. Journalists must nonetheless deal with Informasi dan Transaksi Elektronik (ITE) law, which criminalises defamation and hate speech – without clearly defining these notions – for which journalists face six years in prison. The adoption of a new penal code in December 2022 poses new threats to journalistic freedom with several provisions relating to blasphemy and articles intended to fight against "fake news" that, as they stand, seriously jeopardise investigative journalism. 

Economic context

Around ten large media groups, including Global Mediacomm (MCM), Jawa Pos Group (JPG) and Kompas Gramedia Group (KGG), share most of the mainstream media market. Already volatile, the market was weakened by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to the dismissal of many journalists – 20% to 30% of the payroll of more than half of the media. Radio, which requires smaller investments, is the medium that Indonesians trust most. The online media, for its part, suffer from an advertising shortage, resulting in journalistic standards that leave much room for improvement. 

Sociocultural context

The largest Muslim country in the world and the cradle of religious tolerance, Indonesia is under growing pressure from certain radical Islamic movements. This is especially so in Aceh, an autonomous western province where a very strict version of Sharia law is in force and where a morality police dictates what newspapers can and cannot publish. In the rest of the country, the influence of certain ulama prevents journalists from addressing certain taboo subjects, such as LGBT rights, apostasy and child marriage.


Journalists who investigate cases of local corruption are often subjected to various forms of intimidation by police or TNI soldiers, going as far as arrest and physical violence. This results in a high level of self-censorship. At the same time, it is increasingly dangerous for journalists to cover environmental issues when they affect major private-sector interests supported by local governments.