Did an Aussie radio station 'contribute' to the pending execution of Chan and Sukumaran?

This is a matter of unclear polling and the politics of advantage. Nothing more.

ABC’s youth radio station Triple J has been implicated in the decision to execute Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myruan Sukumaran.

In a tragic turn of events, a program run by Triple J to humanise Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myruan Sukumaran, is now being used by Indonesian politicians to justify their execution.

And many are asking whether the radio station has acted irresponsibly.

Left to right: Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Last week, Triple J’s Hack program ran a story to gauge the public’s opinion on whether or not convicted Bali 9 drug smugglers Chan and Sukumaran should be executed for bringing heroin into Indonesia.

I was listening in that afternoon. It was a powerful program.

Host Tom Tilley and guest Ben Quilty did an excellent job at humanising both Chan and Sukumaran for the audience. They managed to change the minds of many listeners. Minds certain the pair should pay the ultimate price for their crime.

Read more:Radio Station faces part of the blame for impending Bali 9 executions.

Now in an opportunistic grab by Indonesian ministers and diplomats, a poll that Tilley referenced at the start of the program has been used to justify denying the pair clemency.

Attorney General H.M Prasetyo said: “We have heard that many Australians support the execution and it is one of the things that pushes us to feel we are not making a mistake.”

Chan and Sukumaran have been told they’re next to face execution.

Both the poll itself and the way it was reported in the media have been rather misleading.

Those surveyed for the poll were asked, “in your opinion if an Australian is convicted of drug trafficking in another country and sentenced to death, should the penalty be carried out?”

Tilley said 61% of those polled answered yes, penalties should be carried out.

Only 2123 Aussies were involved in the poll.

The poll was conducted by Roy Morgan “exclusively” for Triple J’s Hack program, Tilley announced on air, and Roy Morgan released the research with a headline directly linking the results to public sympathy for Chan and Sukumaran.

Center: Triple J Hack host, Tom Tilley.

So, should Triple J have used the poll?

With hindsight you could say “no”, but that would be incredibly unfair because, quite simply, the poll and Triple J had nothing to do with the decision to end the life of Chan and Sukumaran.

Indonesian authorities had already announced the imminent death of the Australian pair before the program was aired. That’s why Hack chose to run the discussion.

Read more: “My life is an absolute waste” A powerful letter from Bali 9 member Andrew Chan.

Sure, the poll represented a slim majority but it certainly did reflected the current mood in Australia. You could gauge that from listener comments and calls throughout the program. (You can listen to the podcast here.)


The program was overwhelmingly in support of providing the pair with clemency.

But regardless, Chan and Sukumaran were never and are never, going to be let off. That’s because Indonesian president Joko Widodo has made his political career out of his tough stance against drug smugglers. While the poll may be used as additional justification, if it had never existed, the outcome for Chan and Sukumaran will sadly still be the same.

Joko Widodo with Tony Abbott
Indonesian President Joko Widodo with Australian PM Tony Abbott. Image via Getty.

In an interview with CNN on January 25, the President said, “Imagine every day we have 50 people die because of narcotics, in one year it’s 18,000 people because of narcotics. We are not going to compromise for drug dealers. No compromise, no compromise… I tell you there will be no amnesty for drug dealers.”

Read more: The news no one wanted to hear about Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

In the last round of executions, President Widodo ignored pleas to grant clemency to citizens from both the Brazilian and Dutch governments. And he had already made it clear he was going to ignore pleas from Australian PM Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Widodo had no intention of granting Chan and Sukumaran clemency, he has to save face.

And now to save their diplomatic relationship with Australia, Indonesian authorities have grabbed at straws and chosen to use this Roy Morgan poll and Triple J to prove Australia’s compliance. It’s pure politics.

“It would be a dangerous precedent for journalists not to report these things because they are fearful of how politicians may react,” Tilley said in a statement. And he’s right. In no way should Triple J carry the responsibility for the impending deaths of the Bali 9 pair.

Because they’re just being used as political pawns, as are Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.