These are recent headlines from the Jakarta Globe, the newspaper that I get delivered to my hotel room every morning free of charge. I asked for the Jakarta Post, which is a better and more established paper, but there was a snafu, I guess. I have become increasingly frustrated by the sensationalist language that newspapers use in their headlines here.
Why is this sensationalism? Because if you actually read the articles, rather than the headlines, you learn a couple of things. One is that "clerics" mean a limited number of clerics in East Java, not all Indonesian clerics (or even all East Javanese clerics). Second is that "menace" means "a problem for enforcing single-sex educational practices." Third is that "ban" means "declare it to be forbidden to use Facebook for things that are already haram (forbidden)" and "only for schoolchildren in their schools." So Facebook is not a menace, not all clerics agree, and the ban is not a ban. Details details.
I should note that this is not a problem with just the Jakarta Globe or with coverage of Islam. Rather, I think that the Indonesian press does a particularly good job of making news out of nothing, and a bad job out of covering real news. The coverage of the upcoming presidential elections is an illustrative example. Reading the big newspapers here, you'd think that there's some sort of close three-horse race between the tickets. In reality, SBY-Boediono is going to cream the other two. No one seems brave enough to give a clear run-down of the likelihood of each ticket winning, or brave enough to write (outside of the opinion section) about the criticisms of the two other presidential pairings. When Mega-Prabowo declare that economic growth will average 10 percent a year under their five year term, without explaining how in the world they will achieve this, it makes front page news. The response from market watchers is buried in the business section several days later. Guess that type of stuff doesn't sell papers.
I don't think that this is just a problem with Indonesian newspapers–of course American journalism can be sensationalist–but my sense is that even the best newspapers here are not as committed to telling it like it is as I would prefer. So let me respond in kind. TP Declares Indonesian Newspapers A Menace! TP Refuses to Trust Indonesian Newspapers!