In absense of Suharto era censorship, government turns to buzzers as propaganda tool

Source – September 4, 2021
Photograph of pro-President Joko Widodo buzzers circulating on social media – Undated (reaktor)

Rahel Narda Chaterine, Jakarta – Buzzers and influencers are seen as having become the principle voice of the government in the current era.

Jakarta State University (UNJ) lecturer Robertus Robet says that buzzers and influences represent a phenomena of the new media or new media industry which began to emerge in the context of Indonesian politics around 2014.

"The function of buzzers, initially they complemented a position but now they are the principle line, becoming the main frontline of the state's political voice", said Robet during a virtual discussion on Friday September 3.

Robet added that initially buzzers were a business marketing tool which was then adopted for political interests or political image building.

According to Robet, buzzers are needed by certain parties in the current era because it is assumed that the mainstream mass media cannot be fully controlled by those in power or the state.

This is different from the New Order era of former president Suharto when press freedom was still very restricted and Suharto had the minister of information whose job was to filter and provide news material to the public.

"The assumption, yes, is that the mainstream media cannot be fully utilised, like it can't be controlled, can't be controlled by those in power, the assumption's like that, it's different from what it was like in the Suharto (era)", he said.

Nevertheless, Robet also believes that there is still news reporting of information which is asymmetric with the democratic system because the media industry has been dragged into the circles of cartel politics.

According to Robet, the oligarchy which currently controls the economy, the media industry and politics, has an indirect impact on the flow of information.

"But in terms of the flow of information, the asymmetric character of information continues as a consequence of how the media industry has been trapped within the oligarchy and cartel politics which results in them only speaking from one perspective", he said.

Robet gave as an example of how before social media emerged in Indonesia, in the lead up to elections the presidential candidates would pay visits on the media's editorial offices.

"But now, right, this doesn't happen, it almost doesn't happen, but now they gather together influences, this is new symptom in our democracy", he said.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Buzzer Pemerintah Dinilai Muncul karena Media Tak Bisa Dikendalikan...".]