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Indonesian elections: Jakarta Post throws its weight behind Jokowi

In an editorial, competing English language daily Jakarta Globe reaffirms the need for press neutrality.

JAKARTA: The Jakarta Post threw its weight behind the candidacy of Mr Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, in the upcoming Indonesian Presidential election - the first time in its history the newspaper has endorsed a candidate or party in a vote.

"The Post feels obliged to openly declare its endorsement of the candidacy of Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo and Jusuf Kalla as President and Vice-President in the July 9 election. It is an endorsement we do not take lightly," the English language daily said of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) candidates in an editorial published on its website on Friday (July 4).

"There is no such thing as being neutral when the stakes are so high. While endeavouring as best we can to remain objective in our news reporting, our journalism has always stood on the belief of the right moral ground when grave choices must be made.

"Even though our standpoint is often clear, the Post has always stood above the political fray. But in an election like no other, we are morally bound to not stand by and do nothing. We do not expect our endorsement to sway votes.

"Our deliberations are dictated on the values by which the Post has always stood firmly for: Pluralism, human rights, civil society and reformasi."

POST: ENDORSEMENT IS 'MORALLY RIGHT'

The election will be held next Wednesday, with the Constitutional Court ruling that the polls will be limited to a single round, without the possibility of a run-off votes. Current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term in the office.

The Post editorial cited Mr Widodo's rejection of faith-based politics and determination to "reject the collusion of power and business". While it did not mention the only other prospect in a two-horse race, Mr Prabowo Subianto, by name, it called "the other candidate" a throwback to the Suharto era. The former general was once married to the daughter of former President Suharto, who held office from 1967 to 1998.

It also accused the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) candidate of affiliations with "religious thugs who forward an intolerant agenda", and a style of politics "that betrays the spirit of reformasi".

"Rarely in an election has the choice been so definitive. Never before has a candidate ticked all the boxes on our negative checklist. And for that we cannot do nothing," concluded the editorial. "It it is an endorsement we believe to be morally right."

GLOBE: CRITICAL COVERAGE NEEDED

The Post's declaration stood in contrast with the declared neutrality of competing English language daily, the Jakarta Globe.

In an editorial published online late on Thursday, the Globe argued that neutrality was needed to provide "critical coverage of the government for the benefit of the Indonesian people".

It said in the editorial: "It is in this spirit of cooling down conflict while promoting the virtue of the election that we, as a publication, reaffirm our neutrality.

"The press is the fourth estate of democracy, and we believe our neutrality permits us to better carry out our role, reminding both sides to behave with fairness and integrity. We believe that neutrality permits and provides us with the gravity to accomplish our duty to provide unbiased reporting and critical thinking. By not vesting ourselves in one side, we maintain equal balance in coverage and discussion.

"In this healthy democratic process, we welcome the winner of the presidency."

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