In a globalized world, mutual exchange is extremely important, be it in the field of culture, politics or economy. Therefore, the German Embassy Jakarta and Friedrich Naumann Foundation For Freedom Indonesia organised the Media Dialogue Germany – Indonesia 2016 , “The Future of Cities – How Media Contributes” in November where a number of German and Indonesian journalists were encouraged to engage, discuss and debate with each other during a 3-day seminar and field trip.
With a focus on future urban issues, the dialogue aimed to optimize the role of the media in exposing common problems often faced by big cities, in order to raise public awareness and incite greater participation in urban planning.
“This dialogue is funded by the German foreign office with the purpose to bring together Indonesian and German journalists to discuss important issues that both countries share,” explained Moritz Kleine-Brockhoff, Head of Friedrich Naumann Foundation For Freedom Indonesia. “We know that in Indonesia, the development of big cities is growing dramatically. In Germany, we have similar developments but to a different extent. So the idea is for these journalists to meet, exchange ideas and on a larger scale, to encourage them to be able to contribute more to the bilateral relations between Germany and Indonesia.”
Urban sprawl, traffic congestion, pollution and future public housing development are common issues that can be found in all big cities in Indonesia. In order to create an insightful discussion, organizers of the media dialogue invited experts from the Sub-National Development Planning Agency (BAPPENAS) Jakarta, intellectuals, as well as editorial board members of Indonesian and German media as speakers for the seminar.
On their first day in Jakarta, the German journalists were taken on a tour around the city to witness the dynamic life of Jakarta citizens and get a better understanding of their daily problems.
“We took the journalists to travel around the city by bicycle during car free day. For many of them, car free day is a rare experience so it was quite amazing,” Moritz Kleine-Brockhoff said. “Then we went to Kota Tua to see the revitalization progress there, which I think has been a great move by the government aiming to preserve this cultural enclave. Luckily we had the privilege to go into some buildings to see the progress of the renovations. We also visited Kampung Akuarium and Ciliwung River, and from that trip we learned how difficult it is to find a solution for the clash between the city government and the people who live in the slum areas in Jakarta.”
This last visit triggered a heated debate during the next day’s seminar when the participants were discussing the necessary steps that should be taken by the government to tackle the problem of slum and squatter settlements, and how the media should create balanced news and stories that are in favour of the general public and not only a handful of capital owners.
“The rapid development in Jakarta is mostly caused by a high urbanization factor. Since 1962, the urbanization of the capital has swiftly increased as people from other cities and villages see Jakarta as a city full of hope, promising them a bright future,” explained Franz Magnis-Suseno, a priest and social and political analyst, who gave a presentation titled “Jakarta in the 1960s - Jakarta Today”.
“Although many of them end up living very modestly, people in Jakarta can still manage to live in harmony as long as their existence is inviolable,” he added. “They are not bothered with the constructions of glossy malls and fancy apartments. However, in recent years, there have been more conflicts caused by the clash between marginalized groups with the local government that intends to evict them from their homes.”
According to Franz Magnis-Suseno, eviction is one of the consequences that automatically come with the improvement of a city, but it should be done in a way that involves the citizens as subject of development; as long as they are treated humanely, the residents would probably even support the government’s programme. The construction of subsidized flats is a wise move by the government, but the project needs more socialization in order for the residents to better understand the benefits of this significant change in their lives.
According to Sven Hansen, editor of German newspaper taz, the same problem occurred in Germany around 20 years ago when West Germany and East Germany were just reunited.
“There were imbalances between the two regions. Investors were hesitant to go to West Germany because the area was surrounded by East Germany with its socialist ideology. To avoid these imbalances, the government built affordable apartments located in the former East Germany area. Unfortunately, there were irresponsible parties who took advantage of this situation by selling those apartments to the private sector. This unfair condition caused many social actions that were aimed at giving the residents the right to remain in the public housing,” he said. In conclusion, active participation of the city’s inhabitants as well as transparency of the government are crucial to build a safe environment where everyone can live peacefully side by side.
Media coverage of these issues is sometimes influenced by business interests resulting in news stories that only benefit certain groups. In response to this, Editor-in-Chief of the Jakarta Post, Endy Bayuni said that the independence and freedom of the press must be upheld by the editorial board. “It is important for journalists to maintain their credibility in reporting social issues,” he explained.
The discussion between the journalists and the speakers ended with the conclusion that the media should play an active role in becoming representatives of the citizens to oversee the government’s efforts in urban planning for the purpose of social welfare.
“As the organizer, I was happy to see the enthusiasm of all the journalists. The debates were encouraging and inspiring, we all learned a lot in this forum,” Moritz Kleine-Brockhoff concluded. “This dialogue was about getting together to brainstorm and exchange opinions. So I hope that the journalists are now able to provide more contributions when it comes to addressing social problems in the city and to support the city’s development.”