As Indonesia gears up for what looks like a highly divisive election year in 2019, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) called on the need for the press to maintain their independence. In commemoration of its 24th anniversary, the organization also awarded local media companies and journalists who have proven to remain independent and continued to fight the good cause.
Head of AJI Abdul Manan urged Indonesian media to not get drowned in the wave of rapid information exchange following the internet and social media culture.
“Being independent is a statement that is easy to say, but not to do,” he said during the anniversary celebration on Friday (7 September), adding media’s integrity has been hugely challenged in the digital era. AJI was established to support independent journalism under the Soeharto regime,
Former Chairman of the Indonesian Press Council who also served as Chief Justice at the Supreme Court of Indonesia, Bagir Manan, expressed his appreciation for media organizations that have remained independent despite the challenges.
“I’ve been working in a safe, comfortable, yet untouchable place for years now as a lecturer in universities. I do not go through through what our journalists had gone through, and that is why I’d like to express my admiration for their works and perseverance. I don’t think I’d be able to do it if I were them; I know how many of them have struggled so much.”
Bagir Manan also pointed out the challenge that the nation will face in the near future specifically on media and political context.
“We are at a point where it is easy to spread fake news, hatred, and hoax for personal gains. I’d have to say that if we can still find many people trying to manipulate public opinion by using hate speech, then we cannot call this a democratic process. If the presidential election is won through harmful practice, then our nation does not deserve to be called a ‘democratic nation’,” he added.
AJI noted at least 75 cases of abuse against journalists between August 2017 to July 2018. It bestowed the Udin Award to journalist and media who experienced abuse and persecution for what they are reporting. This year’s recipients of the Udin Award are Tempo Media and Heyder Affan from BBC Indonesia.
Tempo faced persecution after producing a caricature that was perceived to be mocking controversial and hardline Islamic leader Rizieq Shihab. In previous years Tempo had also experienced numerous attacks because of its critical point of view.
Heyder Affan, a journalist for BBC Indonesia, was named recipient of the award after he experienced eviction for his attempt to cover the outbreak of measles and malnutrition in Papua. Affan along with his two counterparts were accused of disparaging and undermining the government’s efforts regarding the problem.
AJI also conferred the Tasrif Award, named after the Father of Indonesia’s Journalistic Code of Ethics Suardi Tasrif, to the Indonesian Anti-Slander Society (MAFINDO) for persistently combating hoax and fake news.
This year’s S.K. Trimurti Award, named after legendary journalist Soerastri Karma Trimurti who fiercely took part in the Indonesian Independent movement against the colonial rule, was presented to Magdalene’s Editor-in-Chief, Devi Asmarani.
The judges of S.K. Trimurti Award 2018, Mariana Amiruddin, a Commissioner for the National Commission on Violence against Women, Citra Dyah Prastuti from AJI, and Ahmad Junaidi from the Union of Journalists for Diversity Indonesia, said Devi was selected for her work and for actively speaking out for gender equality in Indonesia. Devi is known for her feminist cause through her writing and her media platform Magdalene, along with co-founder Hera Diani, which aims to empower women and challenge confining social norms.
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