The culture in Indonesia is characterized by
the ethnic and religious diversity. The oldest preserved
art from the 5th century AD is Hindu inspired. There are
also many preserved Buddha statues. From the 600s to the
900s, combined temples and mausoleums were erected in
volcanic stone and brick, so-called chandi. In Java, the
large Buddhist complex Borobodur from the 700-800s
belongs to the country's sights. When Islam came to the
country in the 12th and 13th centuries, the construction
of the Hindu-Buddhist temples was to give way to the
Characteristic of the Indonesian music are the
Gamelan orchestras with roots in animism (andrero),
Hinduism and Buddhism. Gamelan music, played on a number
of percussions, is calm and meditative in Java, while in
Bali it is lively with strong tempo changes. Especially
in Bali, many traditions have been preserved, such as
the temple dances (legong), performed by girls who did
not reach puberty.
Latest population statistics of Indonesia, including religious profiles and major languages spoken as well as population growth rates in next three decades.
Theater is popular. Many Hindu stories remain in the
ancient shadow play wayang kulit, which is played with
dolls. A later form of shadow play, wayang wong, is
performed by actors with predetermined role types and
played outdoors during the nights until sunrise. Modern
Western theater is also staged in Indonesian theater
Religious literature dominated for a long time. It
was not until Bahasa Indonesia became a widely accepted
language in the 20th century that modern literature
emerged. A common theme for the 1920s poets was the
break between old traditions and modern Western
The country's internationally best-known author is
Pramoedya Ananta Toer (1925–2006), who was imprisoned
from 1965 to the late 1970s, accused of communist
sympathies. His four-part romance suite about the birth
of the national freedom movement was banned in Indonesia
The visual arts range from traditional expressions
such as wood carving and batik making to religious or
The Constitution and a media law from 1999
guarantee freedom of the press and expression and
prohibit censorship. The Indonesian media can generally
operate freely and there is an open debate climate.
However, there are a number of restrictions for the
Reporters Without Borders in 2018 described the media
situation in the country as "difficult" and in the same
year ranked Indonesia in place 124 out of 180 countries
in its index of press freedom in the world. It was 22
better than 2012, but still among the worst third of the
For example, the Indonesian media must show "respect
for the religious and moral values of the public". If
they violate this principle, they may be fined. The bans
on "spreading hatred of the government" and "insulting
the president" were lifted in 2007. Instead, the Law of
Defamation is more often used against journalists, as if
they are being jailed, jeopardizing prison. This leads
to self-censorship among media workers.
The government is no longer entitled to revoke the
media companies' licenses and the licensing of printed
media is largely abolished. Until the spring of 2015,
journalists had to have a special permit to visit Papua,
where an armed conflict is ongoing (see Papua). In May
that year, the government abolished the permit
One problem is that professional ethics among
journalists is considered low. It is not uncommon for
journalists to receive bribes. A special press council
has been formed to establish ethical rules for
journalists and receive complaints from the public.
It appears that journalists are being abused and
harassed for practicing their profession. There is also
information about murders of media workers.
With media reports about student demonstrations and
the opposition's demands for democracy, the media played
an important role in Suharto's fall in 1998. A large
part of the coordination of student demonstrations and
criticism of the regime took place via the Internet.
Many newspapers have since established themselves
Internet use is widespread, especially in mobile
phones. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are
popular. However, a law on digital information and
transactions (ITE) from 2008 has been heavily criticized
by media organizations for restricting freedom of
expression on the Internet and in social media.
According to ITE, slander in digital media can give up
to six years in prison.
FACTS - MASS MEDIA
Percentage of the population using the
40 percent (2018)
Number of mobile subscriptions per 100
More than 100 dead in earthquake in Aceh
An earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale hits the province of Aceh in
northern Sumatra. More than 100 people are killed, around 700 are injured and
about 84,000 become homeless.
Mass demonstration against Jakarta's governor
More than 100,000 people are demonstrating in Jakarta against the city's
Christian and Chinese-chained mayor Basuki Tjahja Purnama, who is accused by
Orthodox Muslims of forging Islam (see November 2016). The
demonstration is the second of its kind and is organized by hard-line Islamic
groups who want to prevent Purnama from being re-elected in the February 2017
Nine years in prison for the terrorist act in Jakarta
The militant Islamist Saiful Muhtorir, alias Abu Gar, is sentenced by an
Indonesian court to nine years in prison for his role in the terrorist act in
Jakarta (see January 2016). He is found guilty of weapons
possession and of contributing to the financing of the attack.
Violent demonstration against Christian governor
Tens of thousands of Muslims embark on a violent march in Jakarta against the
mayor of the city who they believe has slandered Islam. Mayor Basuki Tjahja
Purnama is a Christian and the city's first Chinese governor. Ahead of the
February 2017 governor elections, hardline Islamist groups have issued a quote
from the Qur'an that they believe states that Muslims must not be led by
non-Muslims. When Purnama went out and said that this was a lie, it was
interpreted as questioning the Qur'an instead of the Islamists' interpretation
of the quote. His statement has sparked a storm of protest that has also
received anti-Chinese elements. President Widodo condemns the "chaotic"
demonstration and cancels a planned trip to Australia because of the troubled
situation in Jakarta.
Three IS supporters are convicted of terrorist offenses
Indonesian Ali Makhmudin is sentenced to eight years in prison for delivering
explosives to the perpetrators who performed the terrorist act in Jakarta at the
beginning of the year (see January 2016). Earlier in the year,
some 40 people were arrested on suspicion of terrorist involvement, which killed
eight people's lives (four victims and four perpetrators). A few days earlier,
Indonesian and IS sympathizer Dodi Suridi had been sentenced to ten years in
prison for terrorist offenses and a third man was given four years in prison for
Chemical castration against pedophilia
Following a fierce debate in Parliament, a law is passed that allows
pedophiles to be sentenced to chemical castration (to reduce the sex drive of an
individual with drugs). President Widodo defends the law, saying that Indonesia
will not compromise on child sexual abuse and that the law will eradicate
Wiranto becomes Minister of Security
In a government transformation, the controversial retired General Wiranto is
appointed a new minister responsible for security matters. Wiranto has been
charged with violation of human rights in connection with the outbreak of
violence in East Timor in 1999, but he has never been convicted. Wiranto now
leads Hanura's own political party.
More executions are executed
Four prisoners, including three Nigerians, who are convicted of drug offenses
are executed. These are the first executions that have been carried out since
April 2015 when eight prisoners were arched in spite of loud protests from the
outside world. This time, too, the executions are condemned by the UN and the
EU, among others.
Militant Islamist leader killed
One of the country's highest-ranking militant Islamist leaders, called
Santoso, is shot dead by security forces at Sulawesi.
Sailors are kidnapped in the Philippines
Seven Indonesian sailors are kidnapped by unknown perpetrators in the waters
of the southern Philippines. It is the latest case in a series of similar
kidnappings carried out by suspected criminal leagues in the Philippines. The
Indonesian Ministry of Transport bans all Indonesian-flagged vessels from
sailing into Philippine waters.
Widodo in power demonstration
President Widodo visits a number of Indonesian outer islands. He is traveling
with a warship. The visit is seen as a demonstration of power in light of the
recent allegations of territorial water violations.
Dispute with China on fishing waters
17th of June
Indonesia shoots a number of fishing boats accused of fishing illegally on
Indonesian waters. A Chinese boat is seized and seven Chinese crew are arrested.
China is protesting, claiming that one of the crewmen was injured, which
Suspected mass graves should be excavated
Security Minister Pinjaitan appoints a new group to investigate information
that about 122 mass graves in Java and Sumatra contain victims of the 1960s
purges of alleged left-wing sympathizers (see April 2016). The
information about the graves comes from an activist group called the Foundation
for Research on the 1965 and 1966 Massacre Victims.
Widodo government is strengthened
Golkar's 90 members in the lower house change sides from the opposition to
the government. Thus, President Widodo's coalition government achieves a
two-thirds majority in parliament.
Yet another Chinese boat is seized
Indonesian authorities seize yet another Chinese trawler, suspected of
illegal fishing in Indonesian waters.
New executions are planned
The Indonesian Minister of Justice announces that a series of executions are
planned on Nusakambangan Prison Island. There are a number of foreigners and
Indonesians sentenced to death for drug offenses. In 2015, 14 executions were
carried out, including by foreign citizens convicted of drug smuggling.
The 1965 mass murder today
A conference is held between, among others, representatives of the security
forces and relatives of victims of the 1965 massacres, when hundreds of
thousands of people were murdered on suspicion of communist sympathies (see
Modern History). After the conference, Minister of Security Luhut Panjaitan said
that Indonesia must be reconciled with his past, but he ruled out an official
apology. The initiator of the conference, retired General Agus Widjojo says at
the meeting that the 1965 massacres have "torn apart" the country. He calls on
the Indonesian government to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. On
President Widodo's orders, Panjaitan appoints an inquiry.
Dispute with China about fishing boat
An Indonesian patrol boat boards a Chinese fishing boat, located at the
Natuna archipelago in Indonesian waters. Eight crew members are arrested and
transferred to the patrol boat. A ship from the Chinese Coast Guard releases the
Chinese fishing boat and sets off with it. Indonesia submits a formal protest to
China and demands that the seized boat be returned. China says the fishermen
were in "traditional Chinese fishing waters" but do not question that they are
Indonesian territorial waters. China calls for the eight fish to be released but
Indonesia announces that they will be brought to trial in Indonesia. The dispute
disrupts the usually good relations between China and Indonesia, which unlike
other Southeast Asian countries do not claim in areas of the South China Sea.
Tsunami Warning System Out of Service
A major earthquake occurs off the west coast of Sumatra and panic spreads
among residents as rumors suggest it triggered a tsunami. Rumor is false, but
the tsunami warning system set up in the area after the 2004 tsunami disaster
does not prove to work properly.
Twenty-seven fishing boats are lowered
Indonesian authorities lower 27 foreign fishing boats caught fishing
illegally in the country's fishing waters. The boats come from the Philippines,
Vietnam, Malaysia and Myanmar (formerly Burma). Four Indonesian fishing boats
have also been lowered since the crew did not have proper documentation. The
strike against illegal fishing has caused tensions in relations with other
countries, especially when a Chinese ship was sunk in 2015. But President Widodo
says the measures are justified as illegal fishing costs the state billions of
dollars in dollars each year. Since Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti took
office in 2014, she has been running a tough campaign against illegal fishing in
Indonesian waters. In total, more than 170 illegal fishing boats have been
lowered since 2014.
IS sympathizers are imprisoned
An Indonesian court sentenced seven men to between three and five years in
prison for participating in the Islamic State's (IS) extremist movement. Four of
the convicts had traveled to Syria to receive military training from IS and
three of them had helped IS to obtain airline tickets to sympathizers and
recruited fighters to the group. Indonesian authorities fear hundreds of
Indonesians have traveled to Syria to assist IS in its struggle to create a
Economic growth is declining
Indonesia's economic growth for 2015 stops at 4.76 percent. This means that
growth has declined for five consecutive years. The declining growth is mainly
due to weaker prices for the country's export goods as well as falling domestic
private consumption. In addition, the slowdown in China's economy is having a
negative impact on Indonesia, which carries on a lot of trade with China.
President Widodo promised in his 2014 accession that annual growth would be
raised to 7 percent.
Terrorist attack in Jakarta
On January 14, Jakarta is hit by a series of bombings, with eight dead as a
result. Six explosions detonate in the area around Jalan Thamrin, where there
are both shopping centers and embassies and UN offices. Among the dead are four
perpetrators and four civilians (three Indonesians and one Canadian). Two of the
assailants are shot dead by police inside a mall, while two others release their
explosive belts and blast themselves into the air. President Widodo condemns the
deed, which he describes as a terrorist act. According to Indonesian police, a
local terrorist group with ties to the Islamic State stands(IS) behind the deed.
Later that day, IS takes on the debt. Indonesia has been in high readiness since
the New Year weekend when threats of terrorist acts should have come from IS.
During the days immediately following the terrorist attack, police arrest twelve
suspects in raids conducted around the country. One of the arrested should be
financed by the deed, and according to the police, the money comes from IS (for
more information on militant Islamism in Indonesia read here).
More than a hundred former GAM rebels, who have been hiding in the jungle
since the 2005 peace agreement and committed serious crimes there, capitulate,
according to an official Indonesian source.