Mar 26, 2019 Last Updated 4:25 AM, Mar 23, 2019

Do-it-yourself freedom

Published: Jul 29, 2007


Alexandra Crosby

While the mass media monster may appear to be growing stronger, fed on the fat of advertising and corporate sponsorship, new species of independent media are popping up in Yogyakarta. Angry about their lack of access to mainstream politics, and empowered by the 'do it yourself' philosophy, people are expressing their authentic thoughts and feelings by the cheapest print medium available, photocopied zines.

Debu is a brand new zine launched in November, 2001. It is put together by an organisation of street musicians called Serikat Pengamen Indonesia (SPI), among whom is Ibob. SPI began creating their own media under the New Order regime. Before 1998, they made political pamphlets criticising the government and military and announcing actions. These were distributed as widely as possible at bus terminals and train stations.

Ibob recalls this was a 'very repressive period... we could hardly move.' Underground media were being produced, but in a much more restricted form and not nearly in the quantities that they are today. SPI experienced constant intimidation from the military. As a protective mechanism, their material did not contain names or addresses which could be linked back to the group. The fall of Suharto in 1998 was a significant turning point. SPI now feels able to produce Debu, which openly identifies names, addresses, and contact details.

However, intimidation still occurs. Members of SPI recently experienced violent repression from the military again, which leaves Ibob uneasy that this apparent 'opening up' of the political environment will not last. But while it does, Ibob sees alternative media as crucial for expressing radical ideas. 'We must take advantage of this opportunity while we can. Debu is is an expression and affirmation of our political strength and an assertion of our rights as urban poor.'

Exi is part of a collective called anakseribupulau which makes a zine about environmental issues. He says that because there is no profit motive, alternative media can address important issues the mainstream media will not touch. Anakseribupulau (Children of a Thousand Isles) is produced with whatever money the collective can scrounge together at the time. No one is paid for their work or their time. There is no advertising, no business sponsors and no editorial selection. Although the result has more spelling mistakes than glossy photos, and has a circulation of just a few hundred, it is totally open to contributions. 'This,' Exi says proudly, 'is a free, independent medium.'

Emma

Emma makes a zine about gender equality called Kotak Komik. It is distributed through women's collectives as well as student and other activist networks. 'Mainstream media always support the status quo of capitalism and patriarchy. They never print writings or education directed toward ordinary people,' she complains. When asked whether mainstream media have the capacity to address issues of gender inequality, Emma was adamant that under a capitalist system this would be impossible. 'Under this system,' she goes on to say, 'ordinary people don't have access to the mainstream mass media because it is controlled by capital. So we must create our own media.'

Emma sees zines as not only an alternative to the mass media, but to academic textbooks. She is unsatisfied with a lot of writing from the Left in Indonesia because it fails to encourage debate and criticism. Emma doesn't wish to put her energy into media which are out of the reach of most Indonesians.

Ibob, Exi and Emma all agree, the problems with mainstream media are inseparable from those with gender inequality, the environment, and social injustice. Zines are a forum to educate ourselves about how we can live together on this earth without destroying it or each other. By creating media such as Anakseribupulau, Debu, and Kotak Komik, anybody who wants to, has the power to contribute to the debates which affect us all. When asked about the importance of alternative media in Indonesia today, Exi's response was emphatic. 'When faced with so much oppression, inequality, and injustice in the world, we have no choice but to speak out, in whatever way we can.'

Michel Foucault once remarked, 'We are subjected to the production of truth through power, and we cannot exercise power except through the production of truth.' Dissatisfaction with the mainstream media in Indonesia essentially reflects a rejection of the centralised powers which produce it. The emerging zine scene in Yogyakarta is an exciting development in a growing culture of resistance and criticism.

Emma, Ibob, and Exi can all be contacted at kismiana2001@yahoo.com, debu_spi@lovemail.com , and anak_seribupulau@yahoo.com.au. Alexandra ('Sasha') Crosby (alicrosby@hotmail.com) was a student in Yogya with Acicis. She and her friends produced a zine called 'Arus'. 

 

Inside Indonesia 70: Apr - Jun 2002

Latest Articles

Review: Short Film 'KTP'

Mar 17, 2019 - AVERY MORROW

'KTP', 2016

A census worker’s village visit reveals the absurdities of identity card data

Adolescent pregnancy in Manggarai

Feb 27, 2019 - AGHNIA JOLANDA PUTRI & ARTRICIA MARINA RASYID

Author carries out a prenatal check-up with a pregnant adolescent at Cancar / Artricia Marina Rasyid

Premarital sex must be acknowledged as unavoidable, to end a vicious cycle of lost potential

An inadvertent terrorist

Feb 19, 2019 - CAMERON SUMPTER & YUSLIKHA K WARDHANI

Source / Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

One man’s humdrum pathway into terrorism demonstrates the need for extra care in prisons and de-radicalisation programs

A kinder, more gentle FPI?

Feb 06, 2019 - MARK WOODWARD

Lubis described Yogya as a city beset by sin: alcohol, narcotics, free sex, prostitution, pornography and LGBT / Mark Woodward

The historically hardline defenders of Islam plan to enter the political mainstream by softening their rhetoric and abandoning hate speech

Review: Ricklefs on Islamisation

Feb 01, 2019 - RON WITTON

M.Timur/ Flickr Creative Commons

Subscribe to Inside Indonesia

Receive Inside Indonesia's latest articles and quarterly editions in your inbox.

 


Lontar Modern Indonesia

Lontar-Logo-Ok

 

A selection of stories from the Indonesian classics and modern writers, periodically published free for Inside Indonesia readers, courtesy of Lontar