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September 15, 2020, 01.14 AM

Means and medium are not the principles

Little did we know that since its establishment on June 28, 1965, Kompas daily had been shut down by the authorities twice. Together with other news organizations, Kompas was forcibly shut down from October 2-5, 1965. And before that on January 21, 1978 along with seven other news outlets.

These two events may have been forgotten because they may not be considered as heroic events. However, these incidents, especially when Kompas was banned the second time, shaped the newspaper's character that is maintained until today.

No one knew until when the 1978 shutdown would last. He held this view of the event: “The deceased can only be remembered, but it will not be possible to fight. The struggle has not ended and it requires means, including through the mass media.”

Firmly in action, gently in manner (fortiter in re suaviter in modo) had been highlighted by Jakob Oetama in his views and actions. Following an apology and promise made before the authorities, Kompas was back on February 6, 1978.

Three days later, the 32nd anniversary of National Press Day was commemorated in Solo, Central Java on February 9, 1978. During the event, each journalist shook hands with then Indonesia’s President Soeharto. When it came to Jakob Oetama’s turn, Soeharto reached out to hold his hand then said in Javanese dialect, “Aja meneh-meneh!” (Loosely translated as don’t do it again).

My seniors in Kompas daily described what Soeharto had said at the time as short, concise, shocking, and a memorable remark. This was said by one of my seniors, J Osdar, a veteran journalist of Kompas daily and has been a state palace correspondent since the era of Soeharto to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Because of that, it made me understand why Jakob Oetama called me from Jakarta one afternoon during my tour of duty in Central Java. At that time, in August 2010 I served as Yogyakarta Bureau deputy chief following my five-year assignment as state palace correspondent from 2004-2009.

When in Yogyakarta, the book I authored titled “Pak Beye dan Istananya” (SBY and the Palace) — one in the series of Other Sides of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Tetralogy — was published by Kompas publishing company. The first book in the series was launched on August 4, 2010, two months after the 45th anniversary of Kompas daily.

When my phone rang, I was riding my bicycle from the north side of the city to the Kompas office in Kotabaru. As I had some missed calls I decided to pull over to the side of the road to answer the call.

I did not know exactly who had called me from Jakarta. I waited a few seconds and picked up the next call.

From the other end, I heard the voice of Etty Sri Marianingsih, Jakob Oetama’s secretary. Etty told me that Jakob Oetama wanted to speak with me.

I took a deep breath on the side of the road while waiting for Etty to transfer the call to Jakob Oetama. I was nervous for a few seconds.

He did not say much. Jakob Oetama, whom we used to call Pak Jakob, asked how I was doing and congratulated me on the book, which was a compilation of stories about the Palace published on a blogging platform called Kompasiana. The books were sold out a week after the launch.

Mas (brother), you’re okay, right?” said Jakob Oetama, whom I called Bapak (sir).

I was too confused to answer his question because I was not aware of its entire context. I only realized the basis of his question later as I remembered the history of Kompas with the authorities in the past.

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