Steve Erlanger (journalist)

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Date: 1990

Region: Asia

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Print Journalism


Artist: Steven Erlanger

Confronting Bodies: Indonesian Government

Dates of Action: November, 1990

Location: Indonesia

Description of Artwork: "... In November 1990, as he was nearing the end of his stint as the Southeast Asia correspondent for "The New York Times," based in Bangkok, Steven Erlanger published an article on the question of who would succeed President Suharto. He wrote that 'many Indonesians feel increasingly that his decision will turn less on matters of state than on the kinds of guarantees that might be provided to protect the large and burgeoning business interests of his children.' Noting the President's wife's nickname 'Mrs. Tien Percent,' he quoted a respected Indonesian scholar who said, 'We've moved from the generation of of 10 percent to the generation of 20 percent. At least 80 percent of major government projects go in some form to the President's children or friends... '"

The Incident: "... Shortly after the piece appeared, the government placed Erlanger on a black list, with an indefinite ban on his re-entry to Indonesia, and announced that it would take action against the "International Herald Tribune," in which the piece also appeared. The Indonesian Minister of Information charged that the article was 'a bunch of fairy stories' that slandered the head of state. When the Committee to Protect Journalists protested Erlanger's expulsion, a spokesperson for the Indonesian Embassy replied that Erlanger 'lacks the ability to understand the culture and customs of another country,' arguing that in Indonesia, 'It is bad particularly when the veracity of the stories is suspect. In this regard, the president in Indonesia is perceived constitutionally not only as the head of state but also as a unifying factor of the country and the nation... '"

Results of Incident: "... Both the IHT and its Indonesian distributor, Indoprom, eventually apologized to the government... "

Source: A Fund for Free Expression Report, "Off Limits and Corruption," July 1991, pg. 32