A Research Outline

Terrorism Coverage in the Indonesian Media

This research proposal was submitted and approved as the Bachelor thesis research International Business Administration -Erasmus University Rotterdam. Due to technical practicalities the original footnotes and appendices are omitted.

Table of Contents

1. Terror by News – an Introduction  
2. Media as the Unifying Business and the Influence of the Third Person Effect
3. The Appealing Indonesian Case 
4. The Constructing Theory
4.1. Research Objective and Questions
4.2. Definition and Parameters
4.3. Design and Operationalization
4.4. Data Gathering
4.5. Timeframe
5. Conclusion
6. Executive Summary
7. Literature List


1. Terror by News –an Introduction

If a bomb blasts in the center of Jakarta, a metropolitan with 11 million inhabitants, the casualties might be spread over a few hundred meters radius. The material damages may be shared by some buildings and vehicles within the periphery. Those harms are constrained by physical boundaries.

What is far beyond the radius is the effect of terror in which the bomb-planter more likely wanted to achieve. In case of terrorism, their catastrophic actions are much more aimed at the people watching, not at the actual victim. The spectators in this sense are those who know about the attack and the magnitude of its impairment. To the spectators, the terror feels real and well alive, and in turn, threatening.

In medieval era radicalism, the Heyssessini sect a.k.a. segnor de montana executed murders of political figures in front of a large crowd such that after a Friday prayer. The murder created horror to those who were at the immediate scenery. Meanwhile the spread of the terror went relatively slow and limited through words of mouth.

The Heyssessini back then will certainly envy contemporary terrorists of our time. Terrorists now have the benefit of much greater scope of spectators on their operations. Not only they have been benefiting from a bigger audience, but the terror they would like to create spreads almost instantaneously. More attention with a rapid spread gave terrorists the almost perfect tool for their main intention namely propaganda. Those who have made this all possible: the media industry.

Terrorism is certainly nothing new so is their use of the media. However, ever since the mayhem attacks on the World Trade Center twin tower, journalists changed their view on terrorism and its importance. The media are faced with a newly presented old challenge.


2. Media as the Unifying Business and the Influence of the Third Person Effect

Whenever terrorism occurs, there is also counter-terrorism. Counter-terrorism is in fact a collective effort of governments, firms, and individuals. It is very substantial to comprehend the positioning of media given the three classifications of actors.

Most media are structured as business firms who provide products of information to their market in exchange of a purchasing price and generate income from advertisement. This description evidently puts media as firms. Understanding the nature of companies and business, it is then acceptable for the media to seek profit. In this matter a bold line must be drawn when it involves sensationalism. Sensationalist news is likely to boost sales of the media, but on the cost of the society.

Media also play a critical role in bringing together governments, firms, and individuals in the fight against terror. Media have the power to influence public opinion, alter corporate strategies, and even press on government policies. Thus the blade has two sides: in one hand the media have been the megaphone of terrorists, but on the other hand the media can also be the shaping agent of counter-terrorism measures. It is imperative to ensure the latter or at least limiting the first.

In order to do so, careful reviews and proper handling of published news need to be conducted. Media coverage that is released to the public has the potential of the third-person effect. Within the context of terrorist attacks coverage, the effect is likely to encourage readers to think that other people will be influenced by the news e.g. terrified and therefore will take precautionary measures, and in sequence influence themselves to think alike.

This will lead further into erroneous and eventually counter-productive decision making such as downfall of stock market, hesitation in investment, dissuasion to continue normal economic pace, etc. The third person effect as such need not be the fallacy of the articles but it surely lies in the hand of the media. With the immense influence the media can induce to public, comes huge responsibility and caution. The proposed research suggests a tool as a sentinel to keep the disingenuous influence low.


3. The Appealing Indonesian Case

 Previous chapters have explained how media can be vulnerable to be manipulated by terrorist attacks and its potential of the deceptive third person effect. As with any other industry, the media develop themselves for the better. Various studies have been conducted in this field to address the issue of media and terrorism yet very few if any have been conducted for Indonesian media.

There are three main reasons why Indonesia can be significant for this study:

First, the Indonesian media had long been suppressed under the Suharto regime and just marked its true freedom of press in 1999 with specific legislation that gave the press the liberty required in a democratic society. Considering the initial year of Indonesian free press and the series of major terrorist attacks i.e. Bali, JW Marriot, and Australian embassy, it does not give sufficient time for Indonesian journalists to develop their professionalism sufficiently.

As a matter of fact, there are serious concerns on the quality of journalism. Even from the international perspective, the rapid growth of Indonesian media since the fall of Suharto resulted in lower ethical and professional standards, and a rise in biased and sensationalist reporting.

Second, the triad attacks in Indonesia were suspected to have been executed by Moslem radicals. Terrorism with connection to Islamic radicalism is by far not something new. However, particularly symbolized by the World Trade Center atrocity of September 11, 2001, the dimension of terrorist struggle expands into more than just religious zealots but also incorporate resistance towards the capitalistic west. Again, this symptom is seen in the targets of the triad bombings: Bali night club with mostly Australian tourists, JW Marriot – an American brand hotel, and of course the Australian Embassy.

Third, it is not far off to assume that radical Islamic terrorist groups are trying to find new recruits and supporters in Indonesia. More than 177 million Moslems live in Indonesia out of its 214 million inhabitants which count to more than 82% of the population. Religion occupied a respectable part of Indonesian societal life. In regards to media perception, the more religious a person is, regardless of the gender, the higher his or her anxieties towards media exposure to terrorism, political violence, and national threats.

Furthermore, terrorism nurtures in poverty and Indonesia is a developing nation where poverty is still a big issue with GDP per capita well under $700. Preconditions as such i.e. a developing nation with huge Moslem populace are too naïve for the terrorists to ignore. Therefore it is of utmost importance not to allow terrorists to gain even more support in this country. Counter-terrorism propaganda must be engaged properly, and the media is the critical channel for it.


 4. The Constructing Theory

 4.1. Research Objective and Questions

This research is intended to contribute to the media industry especially in Indonesia to avoid them being used by terrorism to fulfill their goals especially in terrorizing the public at large. There are indeed journalistic obligations on reporting such events but the issue at hand is not whether to report, but how should it be reported and presented to the public with minimized gains for terrorism without denying the public’s right to information.

To narrow down the extent of the research, the main research question is asked: “Do Indonesian media benefit terrorists?” with theoretical diagram pictured as follows:

However it must be realized that the main question for itself requires enormous resources and exceptional proficiency due to its complicated nature. Therefore it is reasonable to derive sub-issues from the main question such as:

  1. How do Indonesian media react to terrorist attacks?
  2. Does the public feel terrorized by the news?
  3. Do terrorist groups gain more support from the coverage?

Since questions (2) and (3) would require inaccessible resources i.e. representative public opinion survey and contact with terrorist groups, it is decided for the proposed research to endeavor question (1): How do Indonesian media react to terrorist attacks? This specific question can be answered through proper analysis of the variable ‘News Coverage’ and covers partially the main theoretical concept (the encircled area).

4.2. Definition and Parameters

To appropriately measure and analyze the research question, some assessments of variables need to be initially defined:

Terrorist attacks:
Three different bombings in the past 3 years specifically Bali night club ( October 12, 2002), JW Marriot Hotel ( August 5, 2003), and Australian Embassy ( September 9, 2004). The three events were selected because they are believed to be linked to one another and have been the major terrorist attacks in the past two years. In addition, all three targets are obviously representing a western image making the attacks appear to convey similar message. Apart from the attached label of terrorism applied by the media to these bombings, they all fall under the global definition of terrorism.

News coverage:
Coverage of the bombings in four national newspapers i.e. Kompas (nationalistic background), Republika (Islamic background), Jakarta Post (expatriate oriented and published in English), and Jawa Pos (emphasizing on local views).

These initial four newspapers were chosen due to their different backgrounds and philosophy. This research would like to absorb more views as plural as possible. Consequently it is plausible to expect different presentations of coverage of terrorist attacks.

Media standpoint:
Media standpoint refers to the ideology of the newspapers. These ideologies are the ones the journalists reflect in reporting news and the perspectives the Chief-Editor applies in editing the articles. It also comprises of the background of the media as companies.

4.3. Design and Operationalization

Due to the nature of the definitions described above, the research will adopt multiple case study design where a standardized measurement will be replicated in different cases i.e. other articles from different newspapers.

The research will analyze the publications on the specified terrorist attacks by the subsequent means:

Surface area analysis
The surface area analysis is an indicator of the importance attached to the issue i.e. terrorist attacks. It measures the physical space given to related articles and thus represents the will of the editor to expose the issue at hand. Cover pages will be analyzed separately with the inside pages due to the different magnitude of attention. The result of the analysis is illustrated in Appendix A: Sample of Surface Area Analysis.

To augment the concluding process, it will be helpful to conduct surface area analysis of a different issue that is also important during the similar period as a benchmark. Comparison of the two different issues will result in relative measures of the amount of exposures the media give to terrorist attacks.

Content analysis
In line with the previously explained research question, the content analysis assesses the content of the articles and not the public opinion itself. Consequently, the attributes used in the content analysis do not need to reflect public opinion but merely represents existing theories. The content analysis will adopt two tally sheets that measure attributes in which terrorists seek and attributes that serve general interests (Appendix B: Draft Tally Sheets). Afterwards it will be possible to find the actual balance of the articles by weighing the scores.

Attributes in the tally sheet were mainly derived from a table by Robert G. Picard as attached in Appendix C where he concluded that sensationalist tradition harms the society. Some additional attributes are added by the researchers such as the issue on undermining the authority or security forces. It is also blatantly considered favoring terrorists if the media endorse their cause or encourage the fulfillment of their demand. Attributes might be changed in the course of developing the proposal for the research to be more vigor.

Combining the results of both analyses, it will be sufficiently valid and reliable to draw conclusions on how the Indonesian media react to terrorist attacks in respect to the amount of coverage relative to other important events and the content they provide throughout the coverage.

The reliability of the research will be assessed with cross-check method whereas the two researchers will mutually redo the work of the other to verify whether or not resulted in the similar outcome.

4.4. Data gathering

The data needed which are articles from the four selected newspapers on three terrorist bombings will be obtained directly from the newspapers. Affirmative contacts have been made with a Jakarta-based firm that is willing to act as liaison in providing the required clippings.

To gain even more insights to be related with the articles analysis, this research will also incorporate comments and perspectives from the newspapers editors. Because of time and geographical constraints, communication through email with standardized open questions is seen appropriate. Editors’ comments can be useful in further analyzing the results from the articles analysis in order to cover a more complete perspective, particularly in determining the variable ‘Media standpoint’.

Roughly it is expected to obtain five to ten articles on each event from a single newspaper. The calculation will result in total of sixty to a hundred articles to be analyzed for this research.

4.5. Timeframe

In sequencing this study, a timeframe will be adopted to structure the steps of the research. The schedule is designed to have a two-week safety margin before the actual deadline of June 1 st.






Collecting articles needed January 1,2,3,and 4


Further consultations and research on attributes to be analyzed January


1 and 2



Consultations on designing open questions email to editors January 3 and 4


Initial analysis of articles February 1


Sending emails to editors including specific questions derived from initial analysis if necessary February 2


Meticulous analysis of articles and tally sheet reporting February 3 and 4


Structuring draft research paper March 1 and 2


Early consultation on draft research paper March 3


Revision to the draft March 4


Consultation on the revised draft April 1


Finalizing research paper April 2 and 3


Final consultation April 4


Concluding the research and binding process May 1 and 2


Submission of the research paper May 3




5. Conclusion

The proposed research is feasible to be conducted within the allocated time span considering the facts that the data sources are reachable and the assessments are measurable. Although some further pre-research need to be conducted, they are merely to strengthen the foundations of the main research.

Specifications of this thesis are focused to a level where a Bachelor thesis is suitable to be undertaken. Within the implementation of the study, methodological science given throughout the Bachelor program will be extensively used. Perceiving the matter at hand from the perspective of media’s classification as firms in the collective effort against terrorism made it relevant to the business community.


6. Executive Summary

Media is crucial if not detrimental in their role of reporting terrorist attacks. Terrorists have been aiming to use the media as their tool to spread the propaganda and the terror itself. The victims of the attacks are not their objective, the people who watch the attacks are. Media coverage made it possible for terrorists to reach more people.

It is imperative for media as firms to realize and to prevent being manipulated by terrorism. Counter-terrorism is a collective effort by governments, firms, and individuals. Although media are firms, they have the power to influence all actors in the fight against terrorism. Once misused, the effects will cause harm to the society especially in combination with the third person effect.

Indonesian case is alluring because the media industry there is not yet fully developed, it has had three major terrorist attacks in the past two years, and the religious or poverty appeal terrorists might try to make to the population. Other than those, there has been no study conducted concerning this specific thesis.

The research will address the question on how Indonesian media react to terrorist attacks. By publicizing terrorist attacks the media already benefit terrorists, but it is unavoidable due to journalistic tasks. Thus, the research will analyze how these attacks were publicized in respect to surface area and content. Materials to be analyzed are articles on three different terrorist attacks on Bali night club, JW Marriot hotel, and Australian Embassy published by four national newspapers with different perspectives. More insight will be provided through inputs from editors by standardized open questions emails.


7. Literature List

Alali A. and Eke K. ed. (1991), Media Coverage of Terrorism – Methods of Diffusion, SAGE Publications: California.

Alexander, Y. and Latter, R. (1990), Terrorism & the Media: Dilemmas for Government, Journalists & the Public. Brassey’s: Washington.

Anderson, T. (1993), ‘Terrorism and Censorship,’ Journal of International Affairs, 47 (1), p.127-136.

Anonymous (2003), ‘The Press Moves on for Better or Worse’, Columbia Journalism Review, 42(3), p.7.

Barber, B. (1995), Jihad vs. McWorld – Terrorism Challenge to Democracy. Ballantine: New York.

Berelson, B. (1971), Content Analysis in Communication Research, Hafner Publishing Company: New York.

Budd, R., Thorp, R., and Donohew, L. (1967), Content Analysis of Communications, The Macmillian Company: New York.

Burgess, A. et.al. (2003), World in Figures, The Economist: London.

Davison, W.P. (1983), ‘The Third Person Effect,’ The Public Opinion Quarterly, 47(1), p.1-15.

De Vreeze, D. (2004), Propaganda – Use and Abuse, Thesis Master of Corporate Communications Erasmus University Rotterdam

Department of Religious Affairs Republic of Indonesia (2003) ‘Population Based on Religions 2002-2003’ http://www.depag.go.id/pendprovag.php accessed on October 30, 2004.

Fandl, K.J. (2004), ‘Terrorism, Development & Trade: Winning the War on Terror without the War,’ American University International Law Review , 19 (3), p.587-631.

Harsono, A. (2002), ‘Journalists Confront New Pressures in Indonesia,’ Nieman Reports Cambridge, 56 (2), p. 73-75.

Howard, R., Rolt, F., et.al. ed. (2003), The Power of the Media – A Handbook for Peacebuilders. European Centre for Conflict Prevention: Utrecht.

Kovach, B. (2004), ‘Elements of a Free Press in Indonesia,’ Nieman Reports Cambridge, 58 (1), p.86-93.

Krug, B. and Reinmoeller, P. (2004), The Hidden Costs of Ubiquity: Globalization and Terrorism, ERIM Working Paper: Rotterdam.

Laqueur, W. (1999), The New Terrorism, Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction. Oxford University Press: New York.

Lewis, B. (2003), The Assasins – A Radical Sect in Islam. Phoenix: London.

Peter, J. (2004), ‘Our Long Return to the Concept of Powerful Mass-Media – A Comparative Investigation of the Effects of Consonant Media Coverage’, International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 16 (2), p. 144-168.

Picard, R. (1994), ‘The Maturation of Communication and Terrorism Studies,’ Journal of Communication, 44 (1), p. 122-127.

Player, T. (2002), ‘A Global Definition of Terrorism’, Risk Management, 49 (9), p.60

Rosengren, K. (1981), Advances in Content Analysis, Sage Publications Inc.: Beverly Hills.

Sekaran, U. (2003), Research Methods for Business. John Wiley: New York.

Slone, M. (2000), ‘Responses to Media Coverage of Terrorism’, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 44 (4), p. 508-522.

The Economist (2002), ‘Death in Paradise’, The Economist (US Edition), October 19, accessed through Lexis-Nexis.

The Economist (2003), ‘Striking at Heart’, The Economist (US Edition), August 9, accessed through Lexis-Nexis.

The Economist (2004), ‘A Bombing in Jakarta’, The Economist (US Edition), September 11, accessed through Lexis-Nexis.

Watson, J. (2003), Media Communication: an Introduction to Theory and Process 2 ndedition, Palgrave Macmillan: New York .

Weber, R. (1990), ‘Basic Content Analysis’, SAGE University Papers 2 nd Edition, 49 (4), p. 508-522

Weimann, G. (1983), ‘The Theater of Terror: Effects of Press Coverage’, Journal of Communication, 33 (1), p. 38-44.

-Rotterdam, 22 December 2004

This entry was posted in Business & Society and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Byline

    Michael is a professional leader in the fields of energy investments, complex commercial deals, and sustainability with extensive international experience. His personal interests span from socio-political issues, history, and culture.

  • From the Archives

    ‘RUU Porno’: Arab atau Indonesia?

    Masalah yang ditimbulkan “RUU Porno” lebih serius ketimbang soal bagaimana merumuskan pengertian “merangsang” itu. RUU ini sebuah ujian bagi masa depan Indonesia: apakah Republik 17 ribu pulau ini–yang dihuni umat beragam agama dan adat ini–akan dikuasai oleh satu nilai seperti di Arab Saudi? Adilkah bila nilai-nilai satu golongan (apalagi yang belum tentu merupakan mayoritas) dipaksakan ke golongan lain?