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PPMN and Atma Jaya Conference: Role of Youth and Media in Supporting Future Of Democracy in Southeast Asia

Regional Conference PPMN in Atma Jaya Univerisity. [Foto: Media PPMN | 05.09.2023]

Report by Zevonia Vieira

A number of academics and media practitioners discussed the development of democracy in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia, and the role of youth in this process at a public discussion entitled The Role of Youth and Media in Supporting the Future of Democracy in Southeast Asia.

The discussion was part of a series of Collaborative Regional Conference Indonesia events held jointly by the Indonesian Association for Media Development (PPMN) and Atma Jaya Catholic University, supported by the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) under the Asia Pacific Regional Support for Elections and Political Transition (RESPECT) program.

The event is opened by the Deputy Minister of Communication and Information, Nezar Patria, through a video recording. In his speech, Nezar said that youth and the media are two of the most important groups for the future sustainability of democracy.

The number of youth in the world continues to grow. In seven years, the number will reach 1.3 billion, or nearly a quarter of the world’s population. This growth is in line with the development of information technology, which is synonymous with the younger generation and makes their role even more important.

“Southeast Asia is home to a rapidly growing young generation. I think this demographic is very important for the future of democracy. We need to engage more young people and listen to their voices,” said Nezar.

As for media groups, their function as watchdogs must not fade. In addition to continuing to perform other functions, namely providing quality information and positioning themselves as a force that amplifies the voices of marginalized groups.

The public discussion on the role of youth and the media in democracy differs from the phenomenon in Southeast Asian countries that are facing or have faced elections. In countries such as the Philippines, Timor Leste, Thailand and Indonesia, the voices of youth count for a lot in determining the direction of the political map.

In the Philippines, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. won the election with 30 million votes in an initial count. The majority of Marcos Jr.’s voters were under the age of 30, those who were not born when Marcos Sr. became dictator.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, voters in the 17-39 age group make up 60% of the total voting population in the upcoming 2024 election. Ironically, according to a survey conducted in 2021, 42.32% of them admitted that they were not interested in uncovering information about politics.

The role of youth in determining the direction of the political map does not only depend on when they are in the voting booth. Media and social media are important tools for channeling political aspirations while providing political education to youth.

PPMN Executive Director, Fransisca Ria Susanti said that media and democracy are inseparable. Without a strong media that can be both a watchdog and a guide, there will be no healthy democracy in a country.

Conversely, without the state’s commitment to provide space for a free press and freedom of speech, the dream of a country’s democracy can never be realized.

It is no longer time for the media to focus only on “elitist” issues when covering elections. Journalists must be able to raise grassroots issues to become a common political agenda. Countries in Southeast Asia need media that are critical of government policies that affect the public interest.

“The media must be able to become a compass for citizens who are swayed by disinformation and misinformation, which are increasingly prevalent in political years. Citizens must also have a critical attitude so as not to get involved in supporting or spreading information that cannot be verified,” Fransisca said.

Meanwhile, RESPECT Chief of Party (CoP) Program, Theresia Joice said youth are a contested party in political contestation, and are directly or indirectly exposed to complex global issues. It is therefore important to support them in taking opportunities and promoting a better democratic life.

One of the mandates of the RESPECT program is to support any efforts that lead to inclusive, integrity and legitimate political and electoral processes in Southeast Asian countries. “We want to provide support to youth to explore information, data, analysis, and improve media literacy competencies in Indonesia’s upcoming democratic party,” said Joice.

Previously, the RESPECT program did something similar when collaborating with the Timor Leste Press Council to carry out a series of activities for youth ahead of the 2022 presidential election. In May 2023, PPMN under the RESPECT program also collaborated with the Association of Journalists of Timor Leste (AJTL) in organizing a Collaborative Regional Conference ahead of the parliamentary elections.

The Collaborative Regional Conference Indonesia series of events consisted of public discussions featuring academics such as Hurriyah from the University of Indonesia’s Center for Political Studies (Puskapol), Salvatore Simarmata from Atma Jaya Catholic University, and Arie Putra, a social media activist and founder of Total Politik.

There is also a workshop class on how to use social media to promote democracy and elections with integrity by content creators and social media practitioners Ferry Irwandi and Budi Adiputro. As well as a workshop class on the best coverage of the ExcEl Award 2023 by three winning journalists, Zevonia Viera (Timor Leste), Martha Teodhoro (Philippines) and Gloria Fransisca (Indonesia).

PPMN is a non-profit organization established in 2006. PPMN aims to develop the professionalism of media and journalists, and expand access to information in Indonesia and various countries in Asia through capacity building of media workers at both national and local levels.

RESPECT is a five-year program that has been implemented collaboratively by the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) and PPMN since 2018, with support from USAID. RESPECT works to support the implementation of democracy and elections with integrity in the Asia-Pacific region.

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