About the Author: Sarah Goldfarb serves as Editorial Assistant to DipNote.
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero met with four Indonesian new media journalists at the Department of State on July 7, 2010. The event provided an opportunity for Under Secretary Otero to continue a discussion about the rights and ethical responsibilities of a free media in a democratic society that first began on Under Secretary Otero's visit to Indonesia in May.
Freedom House rates Indonesia as having one of the most free media environments in Southeast Asia, and digital activism is playing a role in strengthening democracy. Under Secretary Otero highlighted how Indonesia serves as a model in the region, projecting a vibrant democracy with a dynamic civil society. Yet Under Secretary Otero voiced some concern over the degree of freedom to operate and access the Internet, particularly in light of recent government moves toward more restrictions on online speech and activity.
The journalists, who are participating in the Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program, said they hope that as online media develops in Indonesia, it will enjoy the same freedom of expression privileges of print media. Commonly, laws and regulations for online media are reactive, but the journalists expressed confidence that government and civil society leaders could sit down together and discuss how to ensure a constructive future for online media in Indonesia. They also discussed the rapid growth of social media in Indonesia and their optimism for society's adaptation of new technologies in the future.
After leaving Washington, the journalists will travel to Tampa, St. Louis, and San Francisco, where they will have the opportunity to explore the responsibilities of online reporting and develop a better understanding of how the Internet, social media, and online journalism promote civic responsibility and empowerment.