IWMF Spotlight: Reporting from Indonesia

Irene Barlian / For The LA Times

With over 270 million people and more than 1,000 ethnic groups, Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, a strategic hub for global trade and a country in democratic transition after decades of authoritarian leadership. Indonesia is also ripe for the nuanced, contextual reporting that the IWMF’s Round Earth Media (REM) program is known for.

Led by founder and long-time foreign correspondent Mary Stucky, REM’s unique model partners journalists at U.S. media outlets with journalists in Indonesia, allowing their stories to reach audiences in both countries. With a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, REM journalists are covering this vast archipelago and have produced dozens of compelling, under-reported stories, with more to come.

Our Partners

Our Indonesian partners are the intrepid journalists at the TEMPO media group, led by Purwani Diyah Prabandari, the managing editor of Tempo English weekly.

We are delighted that this independent news outlet with a brave history of reporting is publishing REM-supported stories in English and Bahasa Indonesia, reaching a wide audience in-country. These original stories also appear in Western media outlets ranging from the Los Angeles Times to VICE World News to public radio stations nationwide. That’s REM’s partnership model in action.

IWMF reporting is contributing to a greater understanding of one of the world’s most important, under-reported countries. And there’s an added benefit: reporters and photographers, most of whom are women, are developing their expertise in and on the region.

An ambitious undertaking, an opportunity to stretch, and a strong addition to résumés. We hope that for the international contributors, in particular, the experience leads to new opportunities to have their work heard and to do documentary-style reporting whether for international or domestic audiences. 

– John Biewen, producer of The Repair’s “Jakarta, The Sinking Capital”

Covering A Diverse Country: A Sample of Our Stories

An hour-long public radio documentary on climate change in Indonesia. “Jakarta, the Sinking Capital” is episode 5 of the Scene on Radio series “The Repair,” produced by award-winning public radio journalists Amy Westervelt and John Biewen with Indonesian reporter Nita Roshita. The series has been downloaded more than a million times and is on numerous “best” lists.

Listen to this episode of The Repair

Domestic workers represent Indonesia’s largest group of salaried women workers — and they are highly exploited. Freelancer Gemma Holliani Cahya and the LA Times’ David Pierson, with photojournalist Irene Barlian, told the harrowing stories of women who were promised education and instead suffered years of abuse and forced servitude.

Read the LA Times story

The persecution of Indonesia’s minority Muslim groups caught the attention of editors at TEMPO, who produced a series of stories that also appeared in VICE World News. In one story, Purwani Diyah Prabandari focused on Amhmadiyya Muslim children separated from their parents due to attacks on their families. Their community faces institutional discrimination, mob violence and bans on their religious practices.

Read the TEMPO story

TEMPO produced a groundbreaking story on Indonesian people with disabilities and the challenges they face in the workplace. Reporter Friski Riana explains that Indonesia has an impressive network of advocates for disabled people, along with job-finding services and training. One program pairs job seekers with companies looking to employ people with disabilities, “like a matchmaker.”

Read the TEMPO story

Journalists Emily H. Johnson and Aulia Adam produced a USA Today multimedia report in 2019 about the oppression of LGBTQI+ Indonesians, including the use of conversion therapies. “In general, nationwide in Indonesia, there is so much belief that homosexuality is a disease – that it is not natural,” Andreas Harsono, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch in Indonesia, told our reporters.

Read the USA Today story

Public floggings are not unusual in the conservative, religious province of Aceh. However, in 2020, the Sharia police officially unveiled the country’s first all-women flogging squad. Pallavi Pundir of VICE World News attended the first flogging by a woman flogger in November 2022 and interviewed two of them to understand their role in Sharia policing and society. The practice, already controversial, is shrouded in mystery.

Read the VICE World News story