Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Good News and Bad News

I read newspapers since I was eight or nine years old. I remember how exiting it was to wait hours and hours for the daily papers and read the newspapers while it still smell of newly printed ink. Yes, I have to wait hours because I spent my childhood in Bali, where the national morning media arrive at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. They only print in Jakarta, at the time.

Each time I receive the papers, I will lay down in the floor of my home veranda, spread the papers in front of me, and read item per item of the news section. My favorite section was the sports column. Kompas newspapers, the one that I read from early age-- had a unique style for sports reporting and writing. Sometime their writers just use the game as a metaphor to explain other things in life, the philosophy of the game, the strategy and those sort of things.

I also love to read the art section. Back in those days, Kompas always publish a novel before it went to print. They will run the story in the bottom row of the art page. The space was so limited, they have to continue publishing it the next day edition.

The continuous stories also serves as a pulling factor for readers like me. I remember waiting impatiently for the next morning papers, only because I was so desperate to know what will happen to the characters in the novel. These stories offer me a glimpse of adult lives.

Of course, I also read the headlines. But, as everyone well aware, you cannot expect anything from current affair news under the Soeharto regime. It was good news all round, no bad news at all. No critics, no demonstration, no anger. Indonesian that pictured in Kompas'reportage --and all other media under Soeharto-- is people who love to smile, to compromise, to work hard. Everything should be smooth, without a single dissent. All of the problems occurred under his administration was swept under the carpet, nobody ever realize it.

I remember the buzz word that day was "take off" period. That is a promise made by Soeharto, over and over again like a mantra. “Work hard, work harder, our nation plane will soon “tinggal landas” (take off –ed) and we'll become a modern and rich country.”


That is why when '98 reformation came along, a lot of people --especially those who live outside the capital and have no other source of information except national media-- shocked. They were unable to comprehend the events unfolded before their eyes. This is a proof that Indonesian media influence to people and their way of thinking-- were so powerful, and eventually made them unable to think critically.

The way media presented good news for more than three decades made people wondering: is this reformation a real thing? Is this whole allegation toward Soeharto and his family are true? How come the picture of our country suddenly change and now its different compared to the picture from the media all this time?

They got confuse and become apathetic. They want to involve and participae but unable to move their feet, let alone command their brain. They cant move because they themselves have not yet decide, which side they were in; what is their values; what is their ideal; what is their vision.

So, eventually, all they can do now is protesting, and criticizing. They enjoy it since they never got a chance to do so under Soeharto. They dream of living under Soeharto's regime again, but this time without the nepotism, and without Soeharto's children. They forgot that all of the success stories of Soeharto happened with consequences: no freedom of expression, no equality before the law, no justice for the poor, and above all: a system where a single person, a single political party can decide the faith of more than 200 million people.


Indonesia got into this crisis in the first place because of the media. Media owners, journalists and media professional association bowed under the power of Soeharto and Orde Baru. The journalists use their media to report false events, bogus allegation, empty appreciation to the government. By doing so, they have lied to their readers, and to themselves.

Nowadays, since we are all so used to read good news in the media-- we got depressed whenever we read bad news in newspapers' headlines. We cant escape because everything in the papers is bad news now, front page to back page.

However, unlike others, these bad news make me happy. Not that I enjoy my fellow Indonesian suffer, but because other reason. These kind of news will make government official eventually work harder. These will also help them to spot their weaknesses and hopefully able to improve it.

Anybody who are depressed when they read newspapers these days, is people with mind in the past. They miss the old days where the media full of good but fake-- news stories. They love to be deceived like that.(*)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wisudo, Old Media and Public Interest

The boundaries between what is and what is not considered as public interest in many media offices, blurred last week. I mourned for the death of rational journalism and the end of what in my opinion should be media's most sacred treasure, respect for what is right and what is wrong, and an ability to hold themselves from directly interfering the course of events in society.


It all start with the sacking of my friend and fellow activist, Bambang Wisudo, from his job as senior journalist at a leading media firm here in Jakarta. The unprecedented sacking prompted a lot of question marks, especially because he is a relentless advocate for workers' rights and currently still hold a position as secretary at his office's press workers union.

According to Indonesian workers' union law that protect the rights of union activists like Wisudo, this sacking is a plain simple violation. Two articles in that law clearly stated that a union activist cannot be sacked because of any activities s/he conducted under the name of demanding union members' rights. So this is an easy case.

But the big question is: how come a prominent media can so lightheartedly violate the law in the most vulgar way and now even thinking to escape from any of its action's consequences?

The top management at Wisudo's office is arranging a high profile attack on his personality, accusing Wisudo of unprofessional conducts during his 15 years working experience in that company. Imagine: 15 years without any wrongdoings and now they hit you back with series of allegations: I mean this is starting to be really dirty. The chief editor worked the phone, talking to almost all editors in leading media in this country, begging them not to make a huge fuss about this case, let things quieting down and ended without any public pressure on him and his management. Its an information black out in its most sophisticated form.

In my humble opinion as an inexperienced journalist working in another media firm, this case certainly has news values and I cannot see any reason why it has to be kept secret and hidden from public eyes.

This case demonstrate the ongoing conflict between union activists and companies' top management who often see union as a pebble in their shoes – party who just try to destabilize their companies and rob them from potential profit. The management cant find a common ground to start negotiation and now abuse their power as management by sacking their enemy's most fierce lieutenant. This case can be an example of how management sees workers union and how they “negotiate” with union. If widely publicize, this case can eventually get the attention it deserved and who knows-- trigger changes in the law to prevent it from happening again in other firms.

But, no, no, no. That is not what happening. Only a handful of media cover the events following Wisudo's sacking, mostly online media and radio. Several TVs did aired a three minutes package but only that –they don't want anything more than that. No live interviews, no talk shows, just a three minute package in a half an hour news bulletin.

In print media, it even worse. The top management including editors shivered at the possibilities of printing this case in their pages. They delay decision or refuse to be held responsible by handing over the bucket to their superiors. It ended up no where near the printed pages.

Many reasons were put forward to cover their cowardice: there is no space, there are many other things happening that has more news values, there was a late advertising so we have to drop the item, and so on and so forth. Whilst the real reason was plain simple: the management has committed the same crime as the management in Wisudo's media --or at least have the intention to act similarly if incidents like Wisudo's happens in their respective firms. Its as simple as that. They don't have the guts to expose other media sloppy mistake because they might trip on the same spot and when that happens, they don't want any coverage too. Its black solidarity and its dirty.

All of this circus and their inexcusable justification serves as a reminder that conventional media --whether its print or not-- have indeed become parts of the conglomerats, the dinosours, the old media. They are controlled by a group of people who have no interest in anything but profit making and other unjustifiable personal interest. Its time to build our own new media, that wholeheartedly serves to the public interest, with no bargain in whatever form. Until that happen, the hope to build a just and rational society triggered by media discourse-- is still far away in the horizon. (*)

Asian Journalists Protest on Bambang Wisudo's Case

Dear Messrs Jacob Oetama
St Sularto
Suryopratomo :

1. We are writing in support of the Alliance of
Independent Journalists (AJI) in its dispute with the
KOMPAS Daily over the proposed transferred and then
dismissal of Bambang Wisudo on 8 December 2006.

2. Having read the AJI’s statement and studied its
case, we have concluded that the management had acted
arbitrary and without regard to the due process of
good labour-management relations and of Indonesian

3. Indeed, as a professional organization of editors,
reporters and photo-journalists, we are disappointed
with the seemingly unprofessional attitude and action
of your management in dealing with Wisudo, a fellow
journalist with 15 years’ service to KOMPAS Daily.

4. It appeared to us that a case of victimization
could be made out against your management on the
grounds of Wisudo’s role as Secretary of KOMPAS Trade
Union, in particular in his efforts to “improve PKK’s
reportage standards and constructively address
policies instituted by KOMPAS Daily management which
are disruptive to workforce productivity and the
paper’s readers.”

5. As such, we stand firmly AJI in its protest against
the management’s high-handed and drastic action
against Wisudo and its lack of respect for the AJI as
union duly elected to represent KOMPAS Daily
member-journalists in their grievances with the

6. At the same time, we would like to urge your
management to exercise the sacred duty and
responsibilities of a renowned national newspaper
group, with an international reputation to keep, to
sit down with the AJI leaders and negotiate a fair
settlement over the Wisudo case.
7. We further urge your management to help create a
conducive atmosphere for the two-party talks by first
rescinding the dismissal of Wisudo without immediate

8. We believe the talks, if convened, should address
the key concerns of AJI and its members, including a
transparent investigation of events leading to the
Wisudo lock-out and sacking.

9. In the name of justice and good labour practices,
Wisudo and any staff member of the newspaper should
enjoy the right of representation by his union in
their disciplinary disputes with the management,
including the appeal against ny unfair and unjustified
job re-assignment.

10. We believe that the case of Wisudo has
international repercussions. For to dismiss a
journalist without just cause is a threat Press
Freedom, not only in Indonesia but worldwide.

11. The alternative to negotiation and a
mutually-accepted settlement of the dispute will be
more incriminations and antagonistic AJI-KOMPAS Daily
industrial relations.

12. We in AJA would urge you to act professionally and
legally by sincerely making the effort to resolve the
Wisudo case fairly and equitably. This will
certainly turn a new chapter in your relations with

For Press Freedom, Peace and Professionalism!

Lee sang-Ki

Asia Journalists Association

Cc: Heru Hendratmoko

Papa, Mama dan Genta

Papa, Mama dan Genta, originally uploaded by wahyu dhyatmika.

This is my beloved family. This picture was taken on my son's three months ceremony in my hometown, Bangli, Bali.