Terror in Indonesia: terrorism and the representation of recent terrorist attacks in three Indonesian news publications within a context of cultural and social transition

Ahmad, P 2010, Terror in Indonesia: terrorism and the representation of recent terrorist attacks in three Indonesian news publications within a context of cultural and social transition, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Media and Communications, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Terror in Indonesia: terrorism and the representation of recent terrorist attacks in three Indonesian news publications within a context of cultural and social transition
Author(s) Ahmad, P
Year 2010
Abstract The representation of terrorism in the Indonesian media is associated with complex communicational processes generated through cultural, political economic and organisational patterns and factors. The most recent and publicly extant examples of terrorism in Indonesia have been associated with the more militant factions of radical Islam. Some well-publicized terrorist attacks have been occurring since the fall of President Suharto's New Order regime in 1998. The overarching aim of this research is to examine the ways in which the print media is engaging with Indonesian terrorism within a broader context of the nation's social, political and cultural transition. This process of engagement, representation and meaning-making is situated within broader historical and cultural analysis of the media, including its 'reformation' within the post New Order civic conditions. Specifically, the study is interested in the role of the media, and news reporting in particular, within a civil order that supports freedom of expression, democracy and the fourth estate function of the press. In particular, the analysis focuses on the 2002 Bali bombing, the 2003 JW Marriott Hotel bombing and the 2004 Australian Embassy bombing.

This study employed a broadly defined Cultural Studies framework to examine how media institutions and their professional journalists represent the issue of terrorism. The approach emphasizes the interplay between lived experience, discourses and texts. Various methods were used to generate 'data'—that is, material that is generated through systematic and empirical methods, including textual analysis and in-depth interviews. Data were gathered from news items in three national publications. Data analysis techniques included contextualism and textual analysis. The techniques were used to analyse how these specific media outlets represent terrorism, specifically as it is linked to recent militant attacks in Indonesia.

Research analyses indicate that the three news publications under study contributed to public knowledge and understanding about terrorism in Indonesia, including its association with Islam, local and Western conceptions of Islam, the government's role in managing political violence, and the need for public vigilance. The research also identified significant differences and similarities between the three news publications, some of which are grounded in ideological differences, and others which are more clearly related to organisational and professional factors. News values—that are processes around news selection and emphasis—were also constituted around the respective background, ideological grounding and organisational-editorial focus of the news outlets.

The research concludes that Indonesian news publications are vitally engaged in potentially divisive issues like terrorism. The news outlets are playing a vital role in the process of public information and public debate. The differences and similarities that are engendered through the representation of recent terrorist attacks in Indonesia are a part of the nation's transition to civil society and democracy. While terrorism is abjured by these news outlets, there is healthy debate about the ways in which Islam and broader social forces—including issues of social harmony, family and faith— are implicated in political violence in Indonesia.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Media and Communications
Keyword(s) Islam
Terrorism
Indonesian news media
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