A memoir-type story about my own experience as a freelance journalist covering the abortive communist coup attempt in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept 30, 1965.


The Herald (Melbourne)

As I mentioned in my earlier stories, I was working on my own, or I was self-employed, if you will, as a freelance journalist in Jakarta. It was not an easy means of making a living, what with the stiff competition from a lot of more experienced foreign freelancers. We were all there because the world’s attention was still pretty much focused on Indonesia following the alleged massacre of reportedly more than 500,000 people for suspected complicity in the abortive communist coup attempt.

Time magazine and CBS News were my major sources of income as they paid the most and gave frequent assignments. Keystone Presss, the British newsphoto agency – I don’t know if they’re still around today, also paid pretty well for the pictures they bought from me. In addition, I had done work at one time or another for the United Press International (UPI), The Associated Press (AP), Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper, The Herald (Melbourne), Agence France Presse (AFP) and the Chechoslovak News Agency CTK.

Early in 1968 I was asked by Peter Polomka to become a reporter for the The Herald, a major Melbourne, Australia, newspaper. Peter was the paper’s correspondent for Indonesia. Dudi Sudiyo (I don’t know if I spell his name correctly) was a photographer of The Herald, with whom I worked very closely. I understand Dudi, at the time of writing, worked for Kompas, Indonesia’s largest-circulation newspaper.

We interviewed a lot of newsworthy people together. The two I remember quite well now were H.M. Mintaredja, a senior minister in President Suharto’s cabinet, and Titi Qadarsih, a singer-cum-dancer rising in popularity at the time. Dudi was a very good photographer. He was so good that later on when I became a public relations consultant I assigned him to take photos of Freeport Indonesia’s mining operations on Papua (Western New Guinea). The company’s president then, the late Ali Budiardjo, was very happy with Dudi’s pictures. So were the senior executives in Freeport Minerals, Inc., the parent company in New York. Freeport Indonesia was one of my major PR clients in the early 1970s.

Peter was working on a major feature story for The Herald around March. I think it was right after the weeklong sessions of the Provisional People’s Consultative Assembly (MPRS), in which General Suharto was elected as Indonesia’s acting president. The country’s head-of-state was elected by the MPRS, the highest policy-making body, at the time. Since 2004 this was changed. The current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was elected directly by the country’s registered voters. Peter took me on a trip to South Sumatra, Southwest Sumatra, Bangka Island in the Bangka-Belitung province and Bintan Island in the Riau Islands province to do the story.

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