The Alfred Friendly Foundation has awarded the Susan Talalay Award for Outstanding Journalism to Bambang Harymurti, a 1986 Alfred Friendly Fellow who is the commissioner of the company that publishes Tempo Weekly Newsmagazine and a host of other publications in Indonesia.
Harymurti will receive the award during the annual benefit gala at the National Press Club in Washington on Sept. 7, an event marking the graduation of the 2018 Fellows and the 50th anniversary of Alfred Friendly’s Pulitzer Prize. Susan Talalay is a former director of Alfred Friendly Press Partners and board member of the Alfred Friendly Foundation.
Harymurti worked for Time magazine while he was an Alfred Friendly Fellow, which he calls a turning point in his career, and covered regional and international news for Tempo before becoming a leader of the weekly news magazine.
In 2004, Harymurti was found guilty of “defamation and false reporting” in a case related to the magazine’s reporting on a wealthy businessman. International press freedom organizations protested Harymutri’s trial, widely criticized as an attack on Indonesia’s news media.
After sentencing, Bambang told a crowd of journalists: “If we lack credibility or integrity, we are worthless … Don’t worry my friends. We shall continue to fight for freedom of the press.” When the Supreme Court later overturned the lower court ruling, declaring him innocent, Harymurti said, “This decision is not a personal victory but a victory for all Indonesian journalists.”
Harymurti went on to become deputy chair of Indonesia’s Press Council and remained relentless in his belief that a free press is the underpinning of democracy. Tempo is known as the leading investigative news service in Indonesia, and it has won numerous awards, including the Honor Medal from the Missouri School of Journalism in 2005.
[Please join us at the Alfred Friendly Benefit Gala at the National Press Club on Sept. 7. Get your ticket here]
Educated as an electrical engineer from the Bandung Institute of Technology, Harymurti was responsible for the establishment of Tempo’s computerized editorial system in the late 80s, the most advanced editorial system in Indonesia at that time. He continued his studies at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, as a Mason Fellow supported by a Fulbright scholarship in 1990/1991.
After obtaining his MPA degree, Harymurti established the US Bureau office of Tempo in Washington and stayed as the bureau chief until Tempo was banned on June 21, 1994. He then returned to Indonesia to get involved in the burgeoning pro-democracy movement. He was hired as the editor of the Sunday edition of Media Indonesia daily and later on was promoted to be the executive editor of Media Indonesia.
Due to increasing political pressure, Harymurti took a leave from Media Indonesia to become a Foreign Affairs Fellow at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University, in 1997/1998, where he did some academic public policy research on the possibility of the implosion of Indonesia. The results were published by The Journal of Democracy under the title of “Indonesia’s Challenge of Changes” (October 1998).
He joined Tempo as deputy chief editor when it was republished in 1998 and was appointed as the chief editor a year later. As the chief editor of Tempo he has faced many libel suits and criminal defamation indictments, including a mob attack by hundreds of thugs who claimed to represent a businessman widely believed to be well-connected to the underworld and corrupt police and military officials in 2003. After a year long trial, Harymurti was sentenced to a year of incarceration, which was subsequently upheld by the appeals court but was thrown out by the Supreme Court in 2006.
Appointed as the CEO/publisher in 2007, Harymurti was responsible for preparing Tempo to enter the digital era. Tempo.co is now among the top four news portals in Indonesia.
An ardent advocate of freedom of expression and clean government, Harymurti co-founded the Indonesian Transparency Society, and, subsequently, Transparency International Indonesia. He was active in the formulation of the Indonesian Anti-Corruption Law and the establishment of its independent Corruption Eradication Commission. He was elected as a member of Indonesia’s independent Press Council in 2006 and re-elected as a Deputy Chair for 2009-2012 periods. He co-hosted The Sixth World Movement for Democracy Assembly and still remains a member of its Steering Committee.
Harymurti was assigned as a UNESCO international expert in assisting newly democratic countries, i.e. Myanmar, Tunisia, Timor Leste and Egypt, and is currently involved in a similar role at the Institute for Peace and Democracy work in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar.
Born in Jakarta in 1956, Harymurti lives in Jakarta with his wife, Marga Alisjahbana, and two children.