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Media-elite interactions in post-authoritarian Indonesia

Andres, Nicole (2016) Media-elite interactions in post-authoritarian Indonesia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

This thesis analyses media-elite interactions in post-authoritarian Indonesia. The introduction of legally guaranteed press freedom and democracy following President Suharto’s fall in 1998 changed the relationship between the media on the one hand and the political and business elite on the other. But what has been the significance of press freedom for elite politics?

The argument of this thesis is that the politico-business elites have, to differing degrees, harnessed the concept of press freedom by incorporating the media as a political weapon in their power struggles over key positions in political institutions and over political resources. Crucially, the heterogeneous and mostly privately owned media companies positioned themselves as actors in the intra-elite contestations.

Through a set of case studies on intra-elite power struggles that escalated into scandals, this thesis examines the ways in which the elite has integrated the media into those struggles, and analyses the vested interests of the owners and practitioners of the media in those struggles. Ultimately, it establishes two key points. First, the elite has employed scandal as a an opportunity to change the composition of a democratically elected government; and second, during those political scandals the owners or prominent editors of particular media organisations, either consciously or otherwise, have formed temporary coalitions with particular elite factions based on shared interests defined by structural conditions and personal relations.

The dissertation’s focus on media-elite interactions is prompted by the lingering dominance of elites within Indonesia’s political economy, the domination of the media landscape by a small number of media conglomerates whose owners are either members of the politico-business elite themselves or linked to the latter in various forms, and, further, that the media have become important sites for intra-elite contestation over political power.

By placing its analytical focus explicitly on the nature of the relationship between the commercial mainstream news media and the politico-business elite in times of intra-elite power struggles fought out in the public sphere, this approach moves away from media-centred investigations, normative concerns and liberal concepts as the dominant way of thinking about the media’s democratic functions.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School Of Business and Governance
Supervisor: Hill, David and Rodan, Garry
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/34994
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