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The Four Faces of Authoritarian Populism and Their Consequences on Journalistic Freedom: A Lesson Learnt From Indonesia's 2019 Presidential Election

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 August 2021

Nyarwi Ahmad*
Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia
*Corresponding author. Email:


This article explores authoritarian populist mobilisation and media strategies that political elites who ran in the election advanced and their consequences on journalistic freedom in an emerging democracy. It focuses on Indonesia's democracy and examines the following questions: what types of authoritarian populist mobilisation and media strategies did Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subijanto adopt when contesting Indonesia's 2019 presidential election? To what degree did these adaptations impact the journalistic freedom of those who worked for Indonesian mainstream media, particularly Indonesian private TV news channels? In-depth interviews with four senior journalists associated with Indonesian TV news channels (Kompas TV, CNN Indonesia, TV One, and INews TV) and two senior journalists working for mainstream media owned by influential Indonesian oligarchs used qualitative and thematic content analyses to reveal the following findings. Jokowi and Prabowo adopted secular nationalist and Islamic authoritarian populist mobilisation during the election. However, Prabowo developed Islamic authoritarian populist mobilisation far more than Jokowi. Jokowi advanced an oligarchic authoritarian populist media strategy, while Prabowo established an intensive Islamic anti-oligarchic authoritarian populist media strategy. As authoritarian populist mobilisation and media strategies evolved during their campaigns, the journalistic freedom of those associated with Indonesian mainstream media declined substantially. This article introduces four faces of authoritarian populism — secular nationalist and Islamic authoritarian populist mobilisation and oligarchic and anti-oligarchic authoritarian populist media strategies — as new concepts enriching political elites’ authoritarian populism literature.

Original Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Institute of East Asian Studies, Sogang University

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