The Senior Editors Forum 2023, held on 16-17 October 2023, brought together close to 100 participants to address disinformation, editorial independence, and the safety of journalists ahead of the General Elections of 14 February 2024.
The two-day event in Jakarta served to contextualize the emerging challenges related to professional election coverage as well as to identify concrete solutions implemented at newsroom level. Over 60 senior editors from across Indonesia were joined by peers from Agence France Presse (France), Malaysia Kini (Malaysia) and Rappler (the Philippines), Voice TV (Thailand) as well as members of the Indonesian Press Council, META Indonesia, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Independent Alliance of Journalists (AJI) and the Indonesian Cyber Media Association (AMSI).
Valerie Julliand, the UN Resident Coordinator in Indonesia opened the Forum by emphasizing the role of media in elections: “Protecting the freedom of expression and access to information is key in any election: when information is accurate, extensive, and available, elections remain free and fair, and democracy thrives.”
“Indonesia is an important partner for the European Union, and we stand united in the fight against disinformation. We understand that this battle cannot be waged by one country or one actor alone. It requires cooperation, knowledge-sharing, and the development of comprehensive strategies to protect the free flow of accurate information,” said Stéphane Mechati, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the Delegation of the European Union to Indonesia.
The Forum started with an evening discussion among political analysts, academics, civil society organizations, social media platforms and media representatives about the emerging trends in the use of technology and narratives used for disinformation, and the challenges of the legal system. The Executive Director of PERLUDEM, META Indonesia’s Public Policy Manager, the Podcast Host of Reformasi Weekly and the Assistant Professor in Public Policy and Management from Monash University highlighted the importance of digital literacy and voter education efforts, as well as collaborative approaches for joint monitoring, fact-checking and risk assessment.
In this regard, META Indonesia highlighted the role of Damai Coalition, which consists of 12 independent civil society organizations, set up with the support of UNESCO as part of the Social Media 4 Peace project, funded by the European Union. The speakers also warned against increased challenges of addressing disinformation at local level in the context of the upcoming Regional Elections in November 2024, requiring a deep understanding of the local context and languages. The CEO and Publisher of the Conversation Indonesia, who moderated the discussion ended on a positive note by highlighting innovative initiatives from civil society, such as Bijak Memilih.
The second day of the Forum was tailored to senior editors, combining substantive discussions and practical workshops to identify concrete tools and approaches to maintain editorial independence, tackle disinformation and enhance the safety of media workers. The sessions were moderated by Internews, BBC Media Action and Narasi TV, respectively. The diverse speakers and participants addressed the needs of both large size media in big cities (greater Jakarta and outside greater Jakarta), and community media in remote areas, informed by best practices at national, regional and global levels. Apart from the Greater Jakarta area, the Forum also engaged senior editors and managers from Bali, Papua, North Maluku, West Sumatera, Aceh, and South Sulawesi and East and West Java among others.
The Forum emphasized the importance of national and cross-border collaboration among the media as well as between the media and civil society, to foster innovation, strengthen economic sustainability and increase public outreach.
“In my short time in Indonesia, I have been impressed with the openness of the media and civil society to cooperate with one another and form ad hoc coalitions to achieve common goals. This closely aligns with the vision of UNESCO, as the UN specialized agency with the mandate to protect freedom of expression and access to information. We seek to promote an enabling environment for free, professional and pluralistic media by supporting complementary actors, approaches and the synergies between them,” said Maki Katsuno-Hayashikawa, Director of UNESCO Jakarta.
The Senior Editors Forum was co-organized by the UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office in Jakarta and the Delegation of the European Union to Indonesia, in partnership with the Indonesian Press Council, as part of their ongoing support to Indonesia’s civil society and the media sector. *