In the last of a two-part series on media’s portrayal of marginalised religious communities in Indonesia, lecturer Dr. Samsul Maarif and Project Multatuli membership manager Devina Heriyanto return to Pretty Good Podcast to expound further on the various ways mainstream media and other stakeholders can collaborate to challenge myths surrounding indigenous communities. From slow journalism to even ecotourism, Dr. Maarif and Heriyanto discuss how intersectoral solutions in both online and physical spaces can help indigenous communities reclaim their narratives in public discourse.
The episode is part of the Association for Progressive Communications’ (APC) Challenge project with the aim of “Challenging hate narratives and violations of freedom of religion and expression online in Asia”.
Photos courtesy of Project Multatuli/Adrian Mulya and Dr. Samsul Maarif
Listen to the Podcast
Watch the Podcast
- Dr. Samsul Maarif is a lecturer and the head of the graduate school program at the University of Gadjah Mada’s Center for Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies. Devina Heriyanto is a former Jakarta Post journalist and now the membership manager of Project Multatuli, a public journalism initiative that highlights underreported stories. Read more about them in Pretty Good Podcast Episode 23, the first part of this series which discusses the media’s role in dehumanising indigenous communities in Indonesia.
- According to Heriyanto, indigenous communities’ stories and their issues don’t get as much attention or engagement in mainstream media.
- Indigenous communities are typically mentioned in various Indonesian media in reference to their ‘different’ and ‘peculiar’ lifestyle and food. Such portrayals however tend to exoticise the culture of indigenous communities.
- Read more about the framing of Indonesian rural places in tourism media and how it unjustly reproduces existing power relations in this journal article. Also, listen to this lecture on how indigenous communities are trying to reclaim tourists’ gaze for their own purpose.
- Project Multatuli, which Heriyanto is a part of, aims to counter these portrayals through a balanced and empathetic approach to storytelling that surfaces the voices of marginalised people and neglected communities.
- Project Multatuli produces stories that add more depth and nuance to the issues discussed. They also focus on uncovering the stories of indigenous people that may be more relatable to young and urban audiences, such as this story on reclaiming the local food movement. This approach aims to get more people involved and engaged in issues concerning indigenous peoples. Read their stories on indigenous communities here.
- Bucking traditional online news models, Project Multatuli focuses on ‘slow journalism’, which takes more time, effort, and resources. This approach requires rethinking how to present stories that respect indigenous communities.
- For Maarif, the intersectoral collaboration of various stakeholders such as media, activists, academics, researchers, and non-government organisations is necessary to address the prejudiced portrayal of indigenous communities in mainstream narratives.
- A group of Indonesian academics, including Maarif, recently established a consortium called ‘Intersectoral Collaborations on Indigenous Religions’ to create a space for indigenous communities to discuss their issues. In turn, the consortium invites government officials, academics, and activists to respond to the concerns raised by the indigenous communities.
- These small forums help marginalised communities gain the confidence to voice out their stories and concerns to a wider audience. Their presence in these forums helps create alternative discourses and dismantle discriminatory narratives that Maarif calls the ‘politics of official religions’.
- The consortium also holds annual conferences to bridge policy and scholarly work. Academics and government officials participate in discussions on the struggles of indigenous communities. These initiatives have led to positive results:
- In 2017, the Constitutional Court officially recognised kepercayaan or indigenous religions, allowing followers of these religions to state their beliefs on their ID cards.
- In 2017, the government released Buku Saku (literally translates to ‘pocket book’), which lays out the government’s responsibility to protect, respect, and fulfil the rights of indigenous religious believers (Penghayat Kepercayaan). Under these guidelines, followers of indigenous religions are entitled to all rights enshrined in the 1945 Indonesian Constitution. Earlier this year, a presidential decree was also released that assures indigenous communities of their rights to promote their tradition and cultures freely.
- While Maarif acknowledges that ‘othering’ is a human phenomenon, stigmatisation of marginalised groups should not be legitimised by the state. Bringing several sectors and stakeholders together in the discussion would engage policymakers to take action on these historical and important issues.
- Maarif also emphasised the importance of providing spaces for indigenous communities to be heavily involved in the government’s development projects, as they know best how to sustain themselves using the resources in their environment. This also helps policymakers better understand the indigenous communities’ cultures and way of life.
- One such way that this can be done is through eco-tourism initiatives, in which the communities themselves make their own development and eco-tourism plan. To sustain these initiatives, Maarif urged the government to set guidelines and criteria on tourism investments in a way that prioritises people empowerment as the main focus of development.
- In the first episode of this two-part series entitled ‘Pretty Good Podcast Episode 23: Media’s Role in Dehumanising Indigenous Communities in Indonesia’, Maarif expounds on the politics of religion that fuels the stigma against indigenous religions. Heriyanto explains how news outlets’ online business models shape and propagate harmful and oversimplified narratives. Listen to the episode here.