Best Of 2019

The Best Stuff We Wrote in Indonesia in 2019

It was an eventful year for Indonesia. We take a look at the good and the bad through the stories we’ve published.
translated by Jade Poa
best vice stories indonesia 2019
Collage by VICE. 

This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.

Another 12 months have gone by, and now VICE is wrapping up its third year in Indonesia.

A lot of things put a damper on this year for many Indonesians. The government introduced policies that threatened the nation’s democracy, prompting thousands to march in the streets. Indonesia also faced major environmental challenges, including massive forest fires and a devastating oil spill. To top it off, discrimination and acts of hatred are still common.


On the flipside, this year also saw stories of hope, change, and unity. We dug through the stories we published this year for the best pieces that challenged norms, explored taboos, and gave our readers new perspectives.

In the early days of 2019, our go-to contributor for LBGTQ issues, Amahl S. Azwar, interviewed Fabio Toba, Indonesia’s only known gay pornstar. His life story embodies the resilience of sexual minorities in Indonesia despite the anti-LGBTQ sentiment that remains strong. Fabio’s bravery to be his truest self inspired us all.

For the first time in May, Indonesia held presidential and legislative elections at the same time. Joko Widodo was vying for a second term, while Prabowo wanted a win to redeem himself after losing to Widodo in 2014. In the end, it was Widodo who came out victorious. VICE also took a look at the legislative elections that were rife with corruption and scandals. In the piece above, we explored the exorcisms performed on losing candidates to treat post-election depression.

One of our contributors, Titah AW, travelled to the remote village of Pitu, where only seven families have lived for over ten generations. In this piece, she provides a snapshot of what it’s like to live 740 metres above sea level in isolation, and how the villagers’ way of life is deeply rooted in mystical beliefs.

This year’s forest fires were disastrous in every conceivable way. They sent a choking haze to neighbouring countries, released double the carbon released by the Amazon fires, and destroyed millions of hectares of land. With the government, farming giants, and locals playing the blame game, VICE investigated how problematic local customs, government incompetence, and corporate greed contributed to the worst forest fire in Indonesia since 2015.

Agni, a University of Gadjah Mada student, sparked a movement when she stood up for herself after being sexually assaulted on campus. She gave countless others the push they needed to speak up and share the injustices they experienced, which is rare in Indonesia. Although we ruffled a few feathers, this report laid out the facts and gave readers an outlet to discuss a topic usually swept under the rug.

We love a good photo story. For us, this year’s most powerful photos came from a feature on bullfighting in Toraja, South Sulawesi, where bulls are considered holy. Buffalo fighting plays a crucial role in funerals and is believed to honor the deceased. These raw, gritty photos give you a taste of how the spectacle has brought a community together.