Coz journalists don’t have nine lives

“NO STORY IS worth your life.”

My former editor, @apathoni, tweeted the credo late Tuesday after confirmed news on the death of a journalist in Mount Merapi flooding our Twitter’s timeline.

It is indeed mournful to read the story confirming Yuniawan Nugroho’s death. Yuniawan — known to his close friends as Wawan — was the head of the political desk at news portal assigned to cover Mount Merapi’s eruption.

He passed away in the Merapi’s gatekeeper’s, Mbah Maridjan, house [his names was only Maridjan, mbah is a Javanese word for grandfather] who was also killed during the eruption.

Both were in Mbah Maridjan’s house in the Kinahrejo village, on the slope of the mountain — about 4 kilometers from the peak of Mount Merapi. Wawan went there to interview the 83 year-old man. As the mount’s gatekeeper, many believe Mbah Maridjan had the power to speak to the spirits of the volcano. Many believe he could tell when the mountain would erupt and when it would stop.

You all probably have read the news, how Indonesia has been suffering from natural disasters lately. The earthquakes, floods, and the latest in Mentawai Islands, West Sumatra: a tsunami. And in Central Java, we have one of our volcanoes erupted.

The disasters claimed hundreds, including a journalist, Wawan.

Journalists, those dudes who always want to go in, when everyone else wants to just get out of the catastrophes.

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Local ‘WikiLeaks’ to escape big media censorship


Seeking a media outlet free of the chains of corporate ownership, a group of journalists is planning to develop a Web site that will carry stories conventional news organizations dare not touch.

Wahyu Dhyatmika, chairman of the Jakarta chapter of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), said he hoped the site could provide an alternative outlet for journalists to post sensitive documents or evidence deemed too “dangerous” to be published in their own media.

“In short, it would be similar to WikiLeaks,” he told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday, referring to the Sweden-based organization that publishes sensitive material and protects the anonymity of its sources. “We hope that in the future, all Indonesian journalists can engage and really benefit from this Web site and that will eventually strengthen our independent journalism.”

The Web site, which AJI Jakarta plans to launch in early August to coincide with its anniversary, is supported by the group’s chapters in Denpasar, Semarang, Surabaya, Malang and Pekanbaru.

Wahyu and 17 other AJI members recently completed a three-week course at the Radio Netherlands Training Center on how new media can support independent journalism.

He said that although Indonesia’s media had enjoyed 12 years of relative freedom since President Suharto stepped down on May 21, 1998, it did not mean that the threat was gone.

AJI Jakarta sees editorial interference by media owners as the new threat to press freedom. In a discussion the group organized in March, media analyst Ignatius Haryanto said “media conglomerate owners have become a threat because they now exercise the control that the government had in the old days.”

The media industry grew exponentially after 1998 when the government gave up its tight control through press permits and content reviews. There are now more than 2,000 radio stations, 1,000 print publications (magazines, tabloids and newspapers), 115 television stations and a growing number of online news portals. However, about 10 prominent business groups control the majority.

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Big Brother & my views on independent journalism

/a bit late post!

Hey ya, it’s a bit late post, because I DID celebrate the World Press Freedom Day in Amsterdam on May 3, 2010, yeah like two weeks ago? It was amazing! I think journalists around the world (well, most of them) are actually having one similar question: is the press under pressure?

To “listen” to my views and @WahyuDhyatmika’s about press freedom in Indonesia, you can click here, it’s our Radio Nederland’s interview (yes, you can hear my voice :P )

/my article

Being open and telling people what we think is right is not easy sometimes. Especially when you are a journalist. I remember once, there was a prominent journalist telling me to erase an update I posted on my Facebook account that “seemed to besmirch one of presidential candidates, and thus it makes you sound bias.” Avoiding further conflicts and a never- ending debate, I deleted my status update.

That small incident makes me start to wonder, whether new media can really give alternatives in the communication issues, including journalism and its independency. From then on, I  have this little skepticism inside me.

Journalists today basically do not need a big company to print their fact-based stories. The great inventions of computer and internet will help them spread the words to the world, in a faster and cheaper way. In a certain personally-managed website, journalists can post any news they have.

But, one question lingers on my mind. In a country such as Indonesia, when the government (although they seem to be very democratic) tries to put some control, including the media through their regulations and laws, could journalists actually publish any fact-based stories they have without risking themselves of losing jobs or be put behind bars?

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