Soeharto's picture

I am well aware of the fact that the news media take pride in
providing the public with reports that are as accurate and complete
as possible.

However, when I looked at the picture of ex-president Soeharto, an
elderly man obviously suffering and in a critical condition, on the
front page of The Jakarta Post on Jan. 9, I felt distinctly
uncomfortable. I felt as if I was a discourteous and unwanted
intruder on an occurrence which should have been very private and
restricted, and reserved for the critically ill patient and his
nearest family members only.

It is indeed true that other Indonesian newspapers, spurred on by
the same desire to offer the latest and best news reports, also
featured the same picture. But somehow the sight of a defenseless
person's private moments, at the time of critical illness or nearing
demise, leaves a bitter taste in one's mouth.

There used to be a time when the dying, death and the feelings of
the relatives of the departed person were given proper respect, by
the public and news media alike.

We Indonesians still possessed a large measure of inner courtesy
then, and wouldn't dream of rudely intruding upon the privacy of an
ailing or dead person and his family, whether he be a common person
or a leader. Now, times are different, and representatives of most
news media seem to agree that disrespectful, intrusive behavior
toward the departed and his/her family is the norm. But is it

For quite some time now, all news broadcasts on Indonesian TV
stations seem to prefer airing vivid reports featuring gory, blood-
splattered accidents, human remains (if the remains belong to a
celebrity, so much the better, it seems), weeping and wailing
relatives, and the lowering of caskets or corpses into open graves.

Often, the grieving and obviously still stunned relatives are
interviewed by a pushy journalist who seems to regard a scoop much
more valuable than respectful, decent conduct, and often asks
insensitive questions.

This is shameful, indeed, and very un-Indonesian. And if the
government takes no stern and immediate action to curb this
unwholesome trend, then this morbid, disgusting interest in the
negative aspects of human death will soon turn non-discerning
Indonesian TV viewers into insensitive ghouls, who enjoy the
suffering of fellow humans. And Indonesia will indeed, then, become
a failed state.

Bogor, West Java


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