"In the presidential election 2014, it seems - I may be wrong, but this is what I gauge - that our press and media are divided. Take a look at the obvious ones, Metro TV and TV One," President Yudhoyono said.
Jakarta (Antara News) - Never before in Indonesias history has the country been so clearly divided before the presidential election scheduled on July 9, 2014.

The media, labor unions, retired military and police generals, street vendors, artists, NGO activists, fishermen, migrant workers, and governors, to name a few, all are divided in supporting only two pairs of presidential and vice presidential candidates: Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa and Joko Widodo (Jokowi)-Jusuf Kalla.

For the first time in Indonesias presidential election many members of different professions as well as individuals are openly expressing their support to either of the two presidential and vice presidential candidate pairs.

Prabowo Subianto is a retired military general and the chairman of Gerindra (Great Indonesia Movement) Party, while his running mate, Hatta Rajasa, is a former coordinating minister for economic affairs and the chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN).

Jokowi is Jakartas Governor and a cadre of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), and his running mate, Jusuf Kalla (JK), is a former vice president and a senior politician of the Golkar Party.

The Jokowi-JK pair is supported by five political parties: the Indonesia Democratic Party Struggle (PDIP), the Nation Awakening Party (PKB), the Peoples Conscience Party (Hanura), the Justice and Indonesian Unity Party (PKPI), and the National Democrats Party (Nasdem) established by Surya Paloh, owner of Metro TV and the Media Indonesia newspaper.

The Prabowo-Hatta pair is supported by Gerindra, PAN, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the United Development Party (PPP), the Moon and Star Party (PBB), and the Golkar Party, whose current chairman is Aburizal Bakrie, owner of TV One.

The ruling Democrat Party has taken a neutral stance in the election, although some of its top cadres have chosen sides.

The media divide is so noticeable that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a comment about it when chairing a coordinating meeting on the implementation of the presidential and vice presidential election 2014 in Sentul in Bogor, West Java, on June 3, 2014.

"In the presidential election 2014, it seems - I may be wrong, but this is what I gauge - that our press and media are divided. Take a look at the obvious ones, Metro TV and TV One," President Yudhoyono said.

The media play a major role in making the presidential election a success, he stated.

The president reminded that the press or the media belongs to the public and should work for their interests. Therefore, the press must report accurately, constructively, and fairly as well as cover both parties contesting the election.

"It is easier said than done by reporters and media owners," he added.

The press disseminates information to the public and, therefore, he will never stop giving his critical views on the press, the president added.

"Although, I will no longer be the president later, the press should be fair, balanced, accurate and constructive," he noted.

Yudhoyonos ruling Democrat Party senior politician Syarifuddin Hasan noticed what he calls an intensifying "war" on TV media as the presidential election nears.

"To us, it is like a sparring between one station and another," Syarifuddin Hasan had said previously.

Citing an example, Syarifuddin said two TV news stations are behaving as if there is a war when broadcasting news on presidential candidates they support.

"What is important is they must not conduct black campaigns," he said.

The minister of cooperatives and small and medium businesses noted that building public opinion and promoting visions and missions of the candidates through TV channels in the country was still an effective tool, especially among people living in remote regions.

He said the current candidates have adequate mass media support, and, in view of that, "it will be interesting to see them fight."

The media war, which involves not only Metro TV and TV One, but also some other TV stations, newspapers, and social media channels, sometimes contain more than just support and include smear campaigns.

Therefore, the Communication and Informatics Ministry has threatened to impose strict sanctions against those involved in smear campaigns against presidential candidates through social media networks.

"Whoever launches a smear campaign against one of the presidential and vice-presidential candidate pairs will be dealt with severely," Communication and Informatics Minister Tifatul Sembiring said recently.

Under the electronic information and transactions law, smear campaigns can be categorized as criminal offenses, he stated.

"Anyone proven guilty of disseminating a smear campaign on social media can be sentenced to six years imprisonment under Law No. 11/2009 on Electronic Information and Transactions," he remarked.

If a black campaign spreads through the public domain, it can spur a massive conflict that will be difficult to resolve, he noted.

"Therefore, campaign teams should refrain from launching black campaigns against the other candidate," he said.

This years presidential election is the third democratic and free elections, which have been organized since Indonesia underwent political reforms beginning late 1998. (*)

Reporter: Fardah
Editor: Fardah Assegaf
Copyright © ANTARA 2014