Indonesia’s Journalists Grapple With Islamism

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Reporters in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country are navigating — and too often abetting — a rising trend of reactionary Islamism.

In early January 2016, journalists in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta chatted about a doctor who had left her husband, moving to Kalimantan Island and joining a back-to-the-land movement called Gafatar.

Journalists working for various Indonesian media outlets reported that her husband had filed a “missing person” report with the Yogyakarta police, saying she’d been “abducted.” They darkly portrayed Gafatar as having “deviant teachings” against Islam, suggesting the movement tricked her into joining. Some journalists even looked for other “disappearance” cases.

These journalists predictably helped to generate public hysteria around Gafatar.

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