Jakarta – Late last week, as millions of Indonesians traveled to their hometowns in the annual Idul Fitri mudik (exodus), this newspaper celebrated its 40th anniversary.
That is certainly a big number, for a media institution or otherwise. In a human life, 40 is an age of full-fledged maturity, when one starts thinking about the legacy he or she will leave to the future.
For a media company, especially in Indonesia, reaching 40 is an even more notable milestone, considering the highly concentrated and cutthroat nature of this country's media landscape.
And if we take into account the disruptions brought on by the internet and social media over the past decade, our persistence and perseverance has indeed been no small feat.
But we won't spend too much time patting ourselves on the back. As we mark our 40th year, the election season is in full swing, with politicians and parties jockeying for position ahead of the 2024 presidential and legislative contest.
So after taking a moment to cut the cake, blow out the candles and pop the champagne, we'll be back doing what we, over the past four decades, have striven to excel at: shining light on the tribulations and triumphs of Indonesian democracy.
The Jakarta Post has existed longer under democracy than under authoritarianism, and in the past 25 years, this newspaper has not just reported on the country's transition to democracy but has also helped in the fight to preserve and advance the major democratic gains we have made in the past quarter century.
On some major issues, we have stated our position clearly, from calling for the full return of the Indonesian Military (TNI) to the barracks to urging President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo not to entertain the idea of serving another term after his tenure ends in 2024.
After all, in 2014, we made the decision, rare in this country's media history, to publish an editorial endorsing Jokowi for president. This gives us even greater reason to hold him to account.
It seems, thankfully, that the biggest danger of this election cycle has passed. The idea of extending Jokowi's time in office appears to have faded and the ruling elites have acquiesced – with a rather disconcerting need for convincing – to maintaining our electoral democracy.
But we must not rest on our laurels. There are too many other signs that things are not right with our political system.
From the passage of sweeping legislation with scant public consultation to crackdowns on free speech both online and off, we can certainly sense that our democracy is backsliding.
The trend may have started around 2017, when Indonesia fell 20 places in the Economist Group's annual democracy index, slipping from a "flawed democracy" closer to the "authoritarian" end of scale.
And then there's the problem of corruption. Last year, Indonesia fell 14 spots on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index to rank 110th, the worst placement since 2014. You only need to look at what is happening at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) today to gauge the sorry state of our country's fight against graft.
So it is clear that in 2024, Indonesian democracy will face a critical test.
On the purely journalistic side, the Post will continue to report unflinchingly on the most consequential events, ideas and controversies of the time. But if the paper's own history is any guide, we will also be at the forefront of calls for an ever stronger, more accountable and more equitable democracy.
Consider that our mission.