Press: Honor of The Nation

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(illustration: IO/Rudraksha)

IO, Jakarta – February 9th is celebrated as National Press Day. This year National Press Day will be held in Padang, West Sumatra. The press is also referred to as the fourth pillar of democracy following the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. The press has a role to educate the people as well as a to be the mouthpiece of truth and justice.

Benjamin Constant,  a Swiss-French political activist and writer on politics and religion,  once said,  with the presence of newspapers, it may create a riot, but without newspapers there will always be oppression. This means that the media has a role to voice the truth and justice.

There are some prominent figures of this nation; they were veteran journalists of their time. Adam Malik, for example, The 3rd Vice President who is the founder of the Antara news agency. Not only him, the public is also familiar with Mochtar Lubis who is identical with Indonesia Raya, then B.M. Diah at Merdeka, S Tasrif in Abadi, and Rosihan Anwar in the Guidelines.

20 years into the reformation era, have we really experienced the freedom of the press right now? According to Ratna Komala, Chairman of the Commission for Research, Data Collection and Ratification of Press Companies from the Press Council, the press is now free from the pre-reformation era. “Since we have the Press Law number 40 of 1999, it is very free, so any citizen can establish a media company. Then we also have the freedom to raise any issues. However, it should consider the code of ethics, “she explained.

In line with that, Margiono, Chairman of PWI (Indonesian Journalists Association) stated that the press freedom is good. “Unfettered,” he briefed.

Abdul Manan, Chairman of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), said that the press is not yet entirely free. “Relatively free, because there is a supportive climate, yet there is an unfavorable climate. Indicators are through political, legal, and economic policies. From the legal climate, we still have laws that can imprison journalists, especially the Criminal Code. Then the ITE Law (Information and Electronic Transactions) which could also be a threat of imprisonment for journalists. That’s not just talk, because there are already reporters who were sentenced despite probation. From that aspect we are not entirely free. So there are still regulations that can imprison journalists. On the political and economic aspects, the influence of political and economic interests against the press. We know our press in the latest research, media ownership of 8 large corporations, reduces the freedom of the press, it carries a very big influence. So the press is not entirely free, “he explained.

Although the press is free to voice interests, but now the spread of hoax news is also on the rise. Anyone can write and spread them through online news networks. Without us knowing who the persons are, and what their interests are. News is easily disseminated online. The attack on public figures, too, with no room for defense, because the ‘assault’ is done through online media.

This is acknowledged by Manan. According to him now the regulation of the press is quite loose, especially print media and online media that does not require a permit issued as it used to in the era of Orde Baru (New Order era). “The situation is still in transition, during Orde Baru, all require permits, the situation is now more lose, especially for printing and online media,” he stated.

Just a reminder, in the era of the Orde Lama and the Orde Baru, some prominent media were banned at that time by the ruler. Sinar Harapan which was banned several times by the ruler. In 1965, Sinar Harapan was banned so that the events of G 30 S-PKI were not exposed. Then in 1973 Pangkokamtib (the commander of the defunct internal security agency)  temporarily revoked the Sinar Harapan Print License relating to the RAPBN news with the title “Budget ’73 -’74 Rp826 billion “. Then in connection with the 1974 Malari (short for Malapetaka Lima Belas Januari, or January 15 Disaster, marked by unrest and a massive student demonstration on Jan. 15-16, 1974) event, again a number of media were banned, including Sinar Harapan. And the one which hit most was the cancellation of SIUPP (publishing permit) by the Soeharto government in October 1986 due to Sinar Harapan headline “The Government Will Revoke 44 Commands of Import Trade Administration”. This ban resulted in Sinar Harapan being forced not allowed to publish for 15 years..

Not only Sinar Harapan, Tempo Magazine was twice banned. First in 1982, because Tempo was too sharp in criticizing the government and Golkar Party. Then the second ban happened in 1994, for criticizing Habibie and Suharto who purchased 39 used vessels from East Germany that was considered as scrap metal.

In addition to Sinar Harapan and Tempo, Surya Paloh’s Harian  Prioritas was also banned after 13 months on daily publication. Being banned because in every issue filled with criticism to the government. The Priority Daily was banned in 1987.

Not only the 3 medias above, dozens of other media were banned. Namely the daily Nusantara,  Suluh Berita daily , Mahasiswa Indonesian Tabloid, KAMI daily, Indonesia Raya, Abadi, The Jakarta Times, and weekly Wenang and Pemuda Indonesia, Pedoman daily and weekly Express and Indonesia Post daily.

Independence and Self Reliance
Although press freedom has been felt; however, independence and self reliance  are still questioned. The large number of media owned by certain political parties has become a challenge in the media industry. Not only that, many medias are also owned by conglomerates who generally have affiliation with certain political parties. This makes the media tending to be a funnel of particular interests. “Our press is dynamic. When there is development of media, owners also plunge into politics, well that is the challenge. The extent is how far the Indonesian press can still maintain the code of ethics, and its independence. Actually if we are not intervened in the editorial, still based on facts, not opinions, run the rules of journalism, also cover both side, then this is good. When it comes to independence, there is indeed progress from the Press Council’s research. So there is progress, the Indonesian press is free from the intervention of the authorities. Yet, now there are indications, the owners are the ones who do the “intervention”, “said Ratna.

Different views delivered by Margiono. He said the press has already achieved independence and self reliance. If there is a media that co-opts on the interests, it remains in an independent category. “If it co-opts itself, it remains independent. Not under anyone’s influence, it choses to be co-opted, so it is independent, “he explained.

Margiono continued, for media owners who come from political parties,  is not a big deal. “As a citizens, owners of the media may come from political parties,” he said.

Concerns that the media will be tendentious and partisan, so long as it is its choice, it is legitimate, Margono said. Further, he said “I see it’s okay. The Independence selects on its own accord. What is forbidden are false, objective, slanderous news. For example the owner is a political party , but its contents are not objective, not factual. It should not be. So it is not because the owner is a political party but rather because of the objective news. It’s different, “he said.

While Manan says for the media which is very partisan, in the end the public will judge and punish it. “I am convinced that an independent media has a far-better future,” he said.

If the media owner uses his media as a means of campaign, Ratna admits that there is a rule. “If you do not interfere with news programs, but advertise, that’s fine. Not that it isn’t acceptable, but there are rules. For example there is a ban mentioning the logo, or invitation to vote, there are regulations. The important thing is not to go into news material. If the news is concerning the event thats okay, but must keep the code of journalism ethics. Well do not just cover one political party, but also make room for other parties. Just do not steal the start of the campaign, “she said.

Margiono said that there is no prohibition for the media to the use of campaign tools for its owners. “What is forbidden is the news not being objective, false news, not balanced. That’s not permitted. Yet if campaigns eradicate poverty, campaign to combat ignorance. Campaign for democracy, that’s okay, “he said.

Welfare
Regarding the welfare of the members of the press, Manan admitted that it is not encouraging. “Jakarta as a national benchmark, we see the mainstream media journalist welfare is not as good as the other sectors, such as the service sector. The aspect of welfare is correlated with professionalism. It is almost impossible, there is great work of journalism, from journalists who are not earning enough. Still wrestling with their own needs. Good journalistic work, costs money, which is impossible to do by journalists who are not doing well in terms of income, “he said.

Ratna said that the company should pay journalists according to the minimum wage (UMR). “Because if not, reporters start to moonlight, which is very vulnerable to ethics violations. If in an established press company, journalists are paid handsomely, but recently, this is a process, the press council requires a media company that has business viability, because if not, it is very prone to bribery, there may be interventions from certain parties, such as those who finance advertisement. Finally it loses its objectiveness in editorial. This still happens. For example media in the provinces, which the ad sources come from the provincial government, because the media lives from advertising, but must be honest, for example this should be covered as advertorial news. While other news must be independent, “he said.

Regarding the welfare of journalists, Margiono said journalists should fight for their own welfare. “Who’s fighting for the welfare of journalists? Government isn’t. It must be the journalists themselves, so don’t wait for someone to tell you, fight for yourself. As far as I know nobody cares, except oneself who strives to be sefl sustained. Is by being a good journalist, outstanding journalists, “he said.

The Role of Media
Ratna said, the media should be on the side of the people, no matter who the owner is. The media must take sides to public, loyal to the public and to greater interests. “The media must take sides, but siding for justice, must defend the persecuted, defend the marginalized, and guard democracy,” he explained.

The press has an important role in the development of the nation. According to Article 6 of Law no. 40 of 1999 the role of the press is as follows. First, Meet the people’s right to know. Second, upholding the basic values ​​of democracy, promoting the supremacy of law, human rights, and respect for diversity. Third, Develop a public opinion based on the right information, accurate and correct. “So give space to the public to speak up,” said Ratna. Fourth, Conduct oversight, criticism, correction and advice on matters relating to the public interest. “So have the power of criticism of entrepreneurs, do not let the ruler be authoritarian,” he said. Fifth, Fight for justice and truth. “It’s a very noble task and has a role to play in development. Because Indonesia is very heterogeneous, much diversity, the press should also adhere to the diversity as well as to make it a strength. So educate, escort if any group is persecuted, marginalized. Because Press should also maintain civilization, “he concluded.

Now the gates of independence has been opened by our founding fathers, it is our responsibility as the successors, to impregnate the independence of Indonesia.

(Dessy Aipipidely, Roosyudi Priyanto)