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Bali Hard Pressed for a Free Press

Protestors Complain of Bali Post's Unbalanced and Unfair Political Coverage

(5/4/2013) Beritabali.com reports that nearly two hundred demonstrators under the banner of the Bali Alliance for a Fair Press conducted peaceful demonstrations in front of the Media Bali Post Office in downtown Denpasar on Thursday, May 2, 2013 demanding the press conglomerate become more objective in their coverage of the current governor’s race in Bali.

In a statement read by Rena Febriyanti, the Alliance asked the Bali Post and Bali TV to cease publishing provocative and one-sided news favoring one ticket in the coming election, claiming the lack of objectivity threatened community unity in Bali.

The Bali Post is openly  in support of the PDIP candidate for governor and vice-governor, AA Ngurah Puspayoga and Dewa Nyoman Sukrawan. The Bali Post Media Group is involved in a long-standing and bitter personal dispute with the incumbent, Governor Made Mangku Pastika, who recently won a law suit against the Bali Post that requires a front-age open apology be published in a number of local newspapers after the Newspaper was found guilty of slandering the governor by incorrectly reporting statements allegedly made by Pastika in their newspaper. The judgment remains under appeal with the courts.

Fenriyanti’s statement describe present coverage by the Media Bali Post Group as divisive and called on the people of Bali not to be provoked, but remain steadfast in their desire to have a peaceful election.

According to Kompas.com, demonstrations were also held at the Monument of the People’s Struggle in downtown Denpasar. A group of religious leaders ceremoniously burnt copies of the Bali Post in order to underline their view that the leading Bali paper lacks neutrality in its political coverage of the upcoming governors race.

Intended as both a protest and a cleansing ceremony, the religious leaders prayed that evil behavior by the paper might come to an end. Wayan Bhaskara, one of the leaders of the ceremony, said the “cremation” was meant to bring the paper back to its correct function.

Protestor pointed to the Bali Post’s tendency to carry only news about AA Ngurah Puspayoga and Dewa Nyoman Sukrawan, avoiding any news about their opponents or only publishing highly critical news about the current governor and his running mate.

Bali TV, owned by the Bali Post Media Group, has been documented running logos in the corner of their news broadcasts with the slogan “15 May 2013, Replace the Governor.”

Bali Post Reports

The Bali Post coverage of the protests  that a group of "tattooed" protestors wearing traditional clothing gathering in front of their offices on Friday, May 3, 2103.

The paper said that in anticipation of trouble, strong security measures had been introduced since early morning supported by police from the Denpasar police precinct, Bali police headquarters, the police mobile brigade (Brimob) and uniformed members of the armed forces.

The Bali Post reportage of the protests depicted the protests as an effort to pressure the press in its rightful function of social control. The paper quoted a retired Major General IGK Manila who said: “This action is meant to pressure the press. They should be focusing on dialogue, not in mass demonstrations.”

Manila said that when there are parties that are unhappy with press coverage, those individuals should use the mechanisms in place to seek clarification exercise their right of a response or bring the matter directly to the Press Council as the government agency empowered to address problems surrounding the press.

The retired Major General who once served as a Secretary General at the Ministry of Information, suggested the demonstrators were using their protests in favor of a fair press for political means, an act he considered unfair.

The protestors stood before the Bali Post Media Office and read a number of demands and pronouncements, including:

After reading their statement the protestors applauded and shouted “long-live Pastika-Kerta” and then proceeded to burn several copies of The Bali Post.

The Bali Post reports that the Chief Editor of The Bali Post, Nyoman Wirata, and members of the editorial team of Bali Post Media Group received the delegation from the Bali Alliance for a Fair Press.

Thanking the protestors for their input, all were invited to work together with the Bali Post to ensure peaceful elections.

There were also press reports of demonstrations against The Bali Post held in North Bali on the same date.