Columbia, Mo. (Feb. 24, 2005) — Tempo Weekly News Magazine, an Indonesian magazine known for its strides in upholding key journalistic principles under difficult conditions, will be awarded a 2004 Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism at a noon luncheon on Thursday, March 3 at Memorial Union on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus.
Janet Steele, Author
The Wars Within
Accepting the honor on behalf of the magazine will be founding editor Goenawan Mohamad and editor-in-chief Bambang Harymurti. On Wednesday, March 2, they will speak in the cross-cultural journalism class from 6-7:15 p.m. in Middlebush Auditorium. On Thursday, March 3, in addition to the medal luncheon, Mr. Mohamad and Mr. Harymurti will lead a professional seminar from 3:30-4:30 in 85 Gannett and attend a reception from 4:30-5:30 in the student lounge in Neff Hall.
Janet Steele, a Tempo scholar, will accompany Mr. Mohamad and Mr. Harymurti for the events. She notes that Tempo was founded in 1971, as Indonesia’s first independent weekly news magazine. It was the first to provide its readers with the non-governmental versions of the truth.
“The magazine opened up a way for citizens to express ideas and opportunities about economic reform and political stability,” said Steele. “During the Soeharto years, Tempo presented independent points of view, often at considerable risk. In this regard, it exemplified the best attributes of a democratic press.”
On June 21, 1994, though, Indonesia’s President Soeharto banned Tempo for its critical reporting on military procurement. The banning made the magazine into an international cause celebre, and prompted unprecedented demonstrations from Indonesia’s middle class.
“Many have argued that these public actions marked the beginning of the end of the Soeharto regime,” noted Steele.
In 1998, Tempo returned to publication. Although Indonesia’s press is nominally free today, Steele explained, there are still grave challenges to press freedom — sometimes coming from criminal elements, and sometimes from frivolous law suits that can have serious consequences in a legal system that is notoriously corrupt.
In 2003, Tomy Winata, a millionaire businessman with close ties to Indonesia’s political and military elite, accused three Tempo journalists of libel, defamation of character, and publishing an article that could provoke disorder. Based on the Dutch-era criminal code, chief editor Bambang Harymurti was sentenced to one year in prison. He is currently appealing that decision.
Goenawan Mohamad founded Tempo in 1971. He was editor-in-chief of the magazine until its closure in 1994, and continues on today as a senior editor and author of a weekly essay. He has won numerous awards in his efforts to promote freedom of expression. Bambang Harymurti has continued this theme as editor-in-chief of the magazine since the magazine returned to publication in 1998.
Steele is an associate professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She is working on Wars Within: The Story of an Independent Magazine in Soeharto’s Indonesia, a book-length study of Tempo magazine and its relationship to the politics and culture of New Order Indonesia.
Other recipients of the 2004 Missouri Medal of Honor include: Dr. Leo Bogart, a social scientist who specializes in mass media and communication; Anne Garrels, a foreign correspondent for NPR; James Nachtwey, a renowned photojournalist; Gloria Steinem, a writer and women’s rights activist; Dr. William H. Taft, former Missouri journalism professor; and Ernest Withers, a Civil Rights movement photographer.
The Missouri School of Journalism has awarded this prestigious honor medal to more than 425 distinguished media people and organizations annually since 1930.