Editors of weekly magazine given MU medal

Monday, March 7, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:13 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

A magazine begun as a mixture of ambitions, dreams and frustrations has yielded a 2004 Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism.

Goenawan Mohamad, founding editor of Indonesia’s Tempo, a weekly news magazine, and editor in chief Bambang Harymurti accepted the award in Columbia on Thursday — a highlight in careers laden with enormous obstacles and enormous triumphs.

Mohamad said he founded Tempo in 1971 because of the need to improve Indonesia’s journalism and because of the ambition to have a free, independent news source. The magazine faced scrutiny from the government and, after reporting on the military, lost its license in 1994.

“Before 1998, we had a very restrictive government (under President Mohamed Suharto) and could only publish something with a government license,” Harymurti said. “It was very hard to write something critical of the government or people in power.”

After Suharto resigned, Tempo had the opportunity to get its license back; however, it was not an easy decision. The Indonesian people had admired Tempo, which was viewed as a space for public discourse.

“We were split. One school of thought was that Tempo was a legend, and we didn’t want to come back and disappoint,” Harymurti said.

Tempo ultimately decided to have a voice and to promote a democratic process trying to take hold in the country.

“We had to create a vision for Tempo. We had to look at what role can we play to help ensure this time our democratic process will be successful,” Harymurti said. “We asked, ‘Who can inform society?’ It is the public media, the press. If we are successful, we can defend against the collapse of the democratic process.”

Today, Tempo is thriving and continues to promote freedom of speech and democracy.

“We hope Tempo provides people with relevant, credible and timely information to help readers make correct decisions,” Harymurti said.

Indonesia now has a fairly free press. The government cannot ban a publication, but a public official can sue for defamation, which happened to Harymurti in 2003. He was sentenced to a year in prison and is out on appeal.

“The Missouri Honor Medal has given Tempo a renewal of energy and high spirit to continue their struggle for press freedom and democracy in Indonesia,” said Suzette Heiman, director of planning and communications for the School of Journalism. “It can serve as a reminder that our First Amendment freedoms are crucial to our democratic society.”

Other recipients of the 2004 medal are: Leo Bogart, a social scientist who specializes in mass media and communication; Anne Garrels, a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio; James Nachtwey, a renowned photojournalist; Gloria Steinem, a writer and women’s rights activist; William H. Taft, former Missouri journalism professor; and Ernest Withers, a civil rights movement photographer.

Mohamad and Harymurti said they are thankful for the award, and it serves as good protection against an attack.

“(It is like) giving us a big ray of sunshine,” Harymurti said. “Our enemies are like vampires, more strong in the dark, and they are afraid of sunshine because it will take their power away.”

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