Tuesday, June 06, 2006

PERS: Kebablasan dalam Kebebasan?

I was visiting a business radio station last week to arrange a live talk show. The talk show was to be broadcast live in 9 cities all over Indonesia. The topic of the discussion was PERS: Kebablasan dalam Kebebasan? It was raised to address emerging issues that some Indonesian media are hiding behind "press freedom" to casually publish inaccurate, unbalanced and irresponsible news to the public.

Ignatius Haryanto and Ulin Ni'am Yusron were invited as guest speakers for the talk show.

Ignatius Haryanto (Mas Hary or KumKum--that's how his friends call him) is a Director of Lembaga Studi Pers dan Pembangunan. He used to be a journalist in Tempo before finally pursuing his interest in the development of the Indonesian press, media and democracy, media ownership, and other press issues in general. Mas Hary is well-known for his critical writings in several publications. He is also a friendly person, and he has a thorough knowledge about media and democracy.

Ulin Ni'am Yusron is a journalist in business tabloid KONTAN, and he is also Ketua Divisi Serikat Pekerja AJI (Aliansi Jurnalis Independen). Ulin used to be a very funky journalist with his braided hair, but that day I was surprised to see that his braided hair was gone, replaced with a crew-cut hairstyle. Great to know that he hasn't lost his funkiness, though :)

Some interesting information emerged as the discussion went on.

It is true that after the Indonesian Press secured its freedom in 1998, the quantity of publications in Indonesia has tripled, resulting in a shortage of professional journalists. That's the reason why several media hire almost anyone as journalists, even those who know very little about journalism. This has resulted in many journalists, having no clear idea about how journalism works, mixing fact and fiction in their writing. Their lack of knowledge in journalism also translated into a lack of respect in the code of ethics of the Press. This is where Press starts to get confused between kebablasan dalam kebebasan.

According to Mas Hary, a journalist is allowed to find personal information about public officials. They are allowed to investigate whether a public official had an affair, and find out whether he used national budget to 'fund' his pleasure. Journalists, however, have no right to violate the privacy of private individuals. Celebrities are not public officials. And it is Desy Ratnasari's right to say "no comment" to infotainment journalists.

The most interesting opinion expressed, and one that might be useful for you, was that someone who feels mistreated by a journalist or a publication could complain to Dewan Pers. According to Mas Hary and Ulin, it is more effective to bring your case to Dewan Pers instead of suing the media in court. Dewan Pers has the right to sanction media that violated the journalistic code of ethic; and your case could be solved even faster and more effectively (plus, without having to worry on how much should you pay the lawyers if you brought this matter to court!).

As the discussion went on, the 'President Advisor of Republik BBM', Effendi Ghazali, joined the talk show via phone. He quoted a saying that stated: it is time for the press to use the term "freedom for" instead of "freedom from". It means, nowadays, press should no longer trapped in the hysteria of freedom from the government or freedom from being banned. It's time for press to think about how to use their freedom responsibly for greater public good.

Hmm, what do you think about Indonesian media? Is it a "freedom-for" or "freedom-from" kind of media?

No comments: