Master of Communications and Media Studies student Pratiwi Utami recently had the first chapter of her thesis published in a respected peer reviewed journal in Indonesia, weeks after her final submission.
Encouraged to submit by her supervisor Dr. John Tebbutt, the article, published in Jurnal Masyarakat dan Budaya (Journal of Society and Culture, distributed by the Indonesian Institute of Science) analysed a controversial viral video of former Chinese Christian governor of Jakarta Basuki ‘Ahok’ Purnama who was jailed in 2017 with a blasphemy charge.
In the video, Ahok’s rivals and critics accused him of being blasphemous towards Muslims by quoting a verse from the Qur’an in one of his political speeches. It was also claimed that Ahok was dissuading Muslims voters from the belief that they cannot vote for a non-Muslim leader.
Pratiwi’s research argued that the viral video was a form of social media activism, as it ignited mass protest across the country. “He looked to have a good chance to continue his leadership in Jakarta,” she said.
“Based on the analysis in my thesis, while the viral video didn’t have a direct effect on the result of the election, it certainly changed his level of electability and his reputation,” she said.
Pratiwi said she used this case study due to its complexity as she saw this incumbent candidate as someone who could have won, but didn’t.
Her thesis looked at three aspects of social media: the viral video, social media activism and hoaxes like fake news.
“I worry about social media in Indonesia at the moment because so much hatred, hate speech and hoaxes circulate on social media,” she said.
Pratiwi’s research findings have led her to conclude that digital literacy in the Indonesian community is something that needs to be developed.
“I found the role of media, in the context of a political event, to exist in between the polarised political sides. We need to strengthen the role of mass media in the context of the digital and social media ages to fight against fake news and not build upon it.”