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Indonesia: Broadcasting Bill Criticised

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by Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The latest draft of the broadcasting law, to be deliberated in the next two weeks, reveals the ignorance of the House of Representatives and the government in regards public demands for revision of several contentious articles.

Various groups have urged the lawmakers to drop a clause that allows civil service investigators to ban a broadcasting station. This regulation, they said, was a repeat of the New Order regime's authoritarian practice to control the media.

Both the House and the government also maintained an article that empowered government to interfere in broadcasting activities.

The House special committee deliberating the bill and Minister of Communication and Information Syamsul Mu'arif agreed on Tuesday that the draft law would be brought forward for endorsement on Nov. 25 as planned. They said there was not enough time to discuss and to adopt all items proposed by various groups.

Leo S. Batubara of the Indonesian Press and Broadcasting Society (MPPI) expressed his regret, saying that both legislators and government failed to accommodate the aspirations of the people.

"They do not listen to public demand. They work only according to their own concept," Leo told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

The MPPI staged five demonstrations and placed advertisements in the media to call for public resistance against the contentious articles in the bill, but legislators and the minister turned a deaf ear and remained unbending.

"We've done our best, but it seems we've lost the battle," Leo said.

According to Leo, the ignorance of legislators and the minister indicated an authoritarian attitude, which he said was the true character of Indonesian officials.

Meanwhile, Gecko Sassily, a member of the House special committee deliberating the bill, told the press on Wednesday that the broadcasting bill will be endorsed on Nov.25. He said his team would use the time left to accommodate as many public aspirations as possible in the bill.

Should there be a deadlock, legislators and the minister have agreed to use the final draft completed on Sept. 26.

"We have done our best. If it does not satisfy the public they can take action," Gecko added.

The deliberation of the broadcasting bill began two years ago, and was further prolonged by the cabinet shake-up as a result of the transfer of power from Abdurrahman Wahid to Megawati Soekarnoputri in July last year.

Protests, including those from members of the House special committee, have marked the deliberation. Legislator Astrid S. Susanto of the Indonesian Nationhood Unity Faction (FKKI) walked out of the conference room in September to protest what she deemed the government's lack of commitment to the bill.


The Jakarta Post November 7, 2002

Media urged to employ 'journalism of empathy'

Debbie A. Lubis, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The media can help people living with HIV/AIDS to lead a stigma-free, productive life by applying "journalism of empathy", activists say.

Kartono Mohamad and Maria Hartiningsih said on Tuesday that journalism of empathy would educate the public not to stigmatize people with HIV/AIDS because it would make the news full of insights about the problems that people face.

"Journalism of empathy requires journalists to write news articles that are individualized and personalized so that the public could learn a lesson from it," said Maria, who is also a senior journalist.

"Stigmatizing and discrimination create a situation where people with high risk behavior for the virus, are reluctant to take an HIV test. So, they also impede early prevention and detection efforts," said Kartono, who is also a general practitioner.

According to government statistics, there are currently some 4,000 people with HIV/AIDS in the country, but the World Health Organization estimated the figure at between 80,000 and 120,000.

The public often stigmatizes HIV/AIDS as a cursed disease from God as a consequence of deviant behavior.

Maria reminded journalists that stigmatization had made identification of victims an issue of ethics and sensitivity in the reporting of news on HIV/AIDS.

"Journalists do not enlighten the public at all if they only exploit the personal life of HIV positive people because it will lead to public panic and strengthen the negative stereotypes about people with HIV/AIDS," she said.

Maria said that journalism of empathy offered news that could affect the public in such a way as to give hope and psychological support to people with HIV/AIDS to do useful activities in their lives.

"Empathy and compassion in the news will make the public aware that anything can happen to them, so they should feel what others feel, and put themselves in somebody else's shoes," she said.

Kartono said that stigma and discrimination have hampered people with HIV/AIDS to prevent opportunistic infections because they were afraid to access health services, or to get support and proportional health care.

He hoped that objective and humane news reports could change the public stigma on HIV/AIDS and draw political support from government to handle the problem through supportive rulings.



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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