Reborn Tempo sold out within 2 days


After a four-year ban, the magazine appears to be on its way to regaining its position as Indonesia’s most-respected current affairs weekly.

ALL 130,000 copies of the influential Tempo magazine were sold out nationwide within two days of the current affairs magazine hitting the streets last Tuesday after a four-year ban.

“It is a surprise – a pleasant surprise to know that this magazine is in such demand,” Tempo’s sales manager Basry Ali said, adding that the high demand was unexpected, given the economic crisis.

“The feedback we have received is that people are happy with our first issue and are looking forward to the second one.”

A Sunday Times check with several news vendors here found that the popular weekly, modelled after Time magazine, was sold out.

Mr Nanok Sarwono, who sells newspapers and magazines in South Jakarta, said he ordered 50 copies initially. But because of its popularity, he would ask for 20 more.

“See, no more Tempo now,” he said, pointing to racks which displayed nearly all other Indonesian weekly magazines like Gatra, D&R, Panji and Forum. “Come back next week. If you are lucky, you will get a copy.”

According to general practitioner Dr Widadi Hidayat, the appeal of Tempo – which appears destined to once again assume the mantle of the country’s leading news weekly – is its ability to present all sides of the story “without any cover-ups”.

He pointed to its cover story on the alleged mass rapes of ethnic-Chinese Indonesian women during the May riots as an example.

The feature carried the testimonies of three people who met rape victims, and a story of an Indonesian-Chinese woman who saw the gang rape of one girl and later helped the victim and her family move to Australia.

“This is not gossip or exaggerated journalism,” said Dr Hidayat.

“They pull no punches. They presented the readers with different versions and left it to us to decide.”

Another reason for its popularity has to do with the status that the magazine attained when the government of former President Suharto forced its closure in 1994. Its publishing permit was revoked, and vague editorial reasons were cited.

Editor-in-chief Gunawan Mohamad, who put a visiting-professorship position at Columbia University on hold to head the
magazine, said that, ironically, this turned the publication into something of a “legend”.

“We are not a legend. We are an ordinary magazine like any other publication. The government made us a legend by banning us,” he told The Sunday Times yesterday.

Such perceptions of Tempo – which at the height of its popularity in the early 90s had a circulation of 180,000 copies – would make it difficult for the magazine to live up to its reputation, he added.

“People might just forget us after the sixth issue if we fail to live up to their expectations.”

He said the next issue would focus on opposition leader Megawati Soekarnoputri and the Indonesian Democratic Party. It would also have an exclusive interview with Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“There is freedom now and we can use this to raise the quality of debate in the country. But we are still dealing with fixed ideas, cliches, narrow-mindedness and fanaticism. It will not be easy,” he said.

“Freedom brings even greater responsibility. We have to be careful not to abuse it.”

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