Friday, April 22, 2005

Bisnis Indonesia First Training Group

Pantau Foundation organized a two-week training for 15 journalists and editors of the Bisnis Indonesia daily this April. We talked about the usage of byline, the criteria for anonymous sources, writing skills and many other issues.

Agus Sopian and me worked as the intructors in the program. Sopian used many material from Roy Peter Clark's writing courses at the Poynter Institute in Florida. I talked mostly about Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel's nine elements of journalism. The discussions were very lively.

We initially were nervous to conduct this training program. This is the first Indonesian major newspaper whose editors openly said they want to use byline, to publish featurized stories and to be a quality newspaper.

Chief editor Ahmad Djauhar told me that he had just returned from the World Newspaper Association annual meeting in Istambul. "Indonesia is the only country in the exhibition whose newspapers do not use byline."

Djauhar wants his newspaper to start using byline.

The newspaper will start using these changes next December in its 20th anniversary. Djauhar introduced the phrase "the new era" for Bisnis Indonesia. He showed me many international newspapers that he stores in his office.

Some Indonesian tycoons established the newspaper in December 1985. Sukamdani Gitosardjono, one of them, remains the chairman of the company today although its employees currently control more than 30 percent of the shares. It is now Indonesia's largest business newspaper.

The training program will be divided into four classes. We should do it slowly as the newsroom still has to publish the newspaper everyday right? Djauhar hopes the training will be finalized among his editors and reporters by August.

We have finished the first class and are now preparing for the second class. We plan to have more writing assignment as it is highly needed in the newsroom. They have developed a style that emphasizes on inverted-pyramid structures over the last 20 years under the tutelage of Amir Daud, a respected Jakarta editor, who used to edit Bisnis Indonesia in the 1980s.

I know "Pak Amir" very well. I respect his news judgement. He also knows me and is familiar with new standards that Pantau Foundation is trying to do. He cannot agree more with what we are working on with the new standards.

Nurman Jalinus, the newspaper's assistant manager on training and career development, organized the program everyday. The food that he ordered for us were delicious. I also thank Eva Danayanti, Indarwati Aminuddin and Purwoto, my Pantau colleagues who helped with the logistics.

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We held the the training program in the new Bisnis Indonesia office in the Karet Tengsin area in Jakarta. Laughing and chatting endlessly, especially in Agus Sopian's sessions, they posed at the end of the program outside the office. Managing editor Linda Tangdialla (sixth from left) said she expects the program to help bring changes in the newspaper. "I was surprised that we all came to the training at 10 am sharp even on that Friday morning," said Tandialla, referring to a public holiday this week but we agreed to keep the program.

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From left to right: Deddy Pakpahan (Bisnis Indonesia Sunday), Agus Sopian (Pantau), Tri Dirgantara Pamenan, Endot Briliantono, Y. Bayu Widagdo, Reni Efita Hendry (Sunday), Suli Murwani, Linda Tangdialla (managing editor), R. Fitriana, Mulia Ginting Munthe (Sunday), Inria Zulfikar (desk editor), Bambang Supriyanto, Chamdan Purwoko, Erwin Tambunan and M. Sarwani (desk editor). These feet kicking scenes took place only a few seconds. They soon scrambled for balance. Gajah Kusumo was absent in this photo session.

Silabus Workshop Jayapura Mei 2005

PEMBARUAN JURNALISME DARI TIMUR INDONESIA

:: Apa dan Bagaimana Workshop

Thomas Hanitzsch punya penelitian menarik tentang jurnalisme di Indonesia. Dia antara lain melihat bahwa tak ada interaksi antara pendidikan jurnalisme dan industri media. Sekolah jurnalisme punya dunianya sendiri, sedangkan industri media berada pada dunia yang lain. Malangnya, hampir semua sekolah yang ada tak dilengkapi dengan teknologi yang memadai. Banyak yang tak punya fasilitas internet maupun disain grafis. Lebih dari itu, dari 69 sekolah jurnalisme (dari D-1 hingga S-3) di Indonesia, sekira 80 persen ada di Pulau Jawa dan Medan. Daerah timur, dari Makassar hingga Jayapura, dari Maluku hingga Kupang, adalah daerah-daerah yang tak punya sekolah jurnalisme. Ia melihat ada ketimpangan besar antara jurnalisme di Jawa dan Medan serta di kota-kota timur.

Hanitzsch adalah peneliti dari Universitas Ilmenau, Jerman, dan pernah kuliah Bahasa Indonesia di Universitas Gadjah Mada. Pandangannya tentang jurnalisme Indonesia dituangkan ke sebuah riset berjudul “Rethinking Journalism Education in Indonesia: Nine Theses” (diterbitkan jurnal Mediator Volume 2 Nomor 1 - 2001). Riset ini merekomendasikan betapa perlunya langkah-langkah pembaruan dilakukan. Usaha pembaruan bisa dilakukan dengan menyelenggarakan pelatihan-pelatihan yang diarahkan pada kemampuan praktis, salah satunya bidang penulisan.

Workshop ini digelar dengan maksud untuk memperkenalkan teknik-teknik penulisan dan bagaimana menyajikan laporan yang baik, termasuk bagaimana cara meliputnya secara komprehensif. Peserta dibatasi agar lingkungan workshop memunculkan iklim diskusi yang interaktif. Kegiatan ini akan berlangsung selama tiga hari dalam konsep pelatihan penuh, dari pagi sampai sore.

Selalu terdapat kemungkinan peserta tidak dapat menerima transfer pendidikan secara maksimal pada saat berlangsung workshop. Oleh karena itu, Yayasan Pantau yang bertanggung jawab atas silabus, menyertakan sejumlah bacaan dan beberapa petunjuk praktis ke arah pengembangan kemampuan jurnalisme, yang dapat disimak peserta secara leluasa sepulang dari workshop.

Untuk memberi perhatian secara lebih optimal, yang memungkinkan peserta dapat menjalani workshop secara intens, termasuk bertanya dengan keleluasan waktu lebih banyak, workshop akan dilangsungkan dalam kelas paralel.

:: Peserta

Sebanyak 26 orang terdiri atas wartawan dan pemimpin media di kawasan Indonesia timur, serta beberapa official media dan komunikasi dari PT. Freeport Indonesia Jayapura dan Jakarta.

:: Sponsor

Workshop disponsori sepenuhnya oleh PT Freeport Indonesia, kontak personal: Santi Sari Esayanti. Email: Santi_SariEsayanti@fmi.com.

:: Fasilitator

Yayasan Pantau, Jakarta. Kontak personal: Indarwati Aminuddin. Email: client76@yahoo.com.

:: Instruktur

Andreas Harsono (www.andreasharsono.blogspot.com), adalah ketua Yayasan Pantau, anggota the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists dan associate editor pada the First Monday. Tahun 1999, Harsono mendapatkan Nieman Fellowship dari Harvard University. Dia pernah bekerja untuk The West Australian (Perth), The Nation (Bangkok), serta The Star (Kuala Lumpur), dan memimpin majalah Pantau. Dalam aktivitas organisasi kewartawanan, Harsono ikut memprakarsai pendirian Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI), Institut Studi Arus Informasi (ISAI) serta Southeast Asia Press Alliance (SEAPA). Kini, ia sedang menyelesaikan buku From Sabang to Merauke: Debunking the Myth of Indonesian Nationalism yang membahas kompleksitas hubungan antara kekerasan media, etnik dan agama dengan nasionalisme di Indonesia.

Agus Sopian (www.asopian.blogspot.com), adalah anggota badan pendiri Yayasan Pantau, konsultan independen untuk riset dan pelatihan jurnalisme, selain menulis di beberapa media massa. Sebelumnya, Sopian bekerja untuk Perform Project, sebuah konsultan riset untuk RTI Amerika; dan menyunting beberapa media antara lain Java, Bandung Pos, majalah Pantau. Tahun 2002, ia dikirim Pantau ke Kuala Lumpur untuk mengikuti “Advance Course on Investigative Reporting. “ Beberapa buku pernah dieditnya, dan kini sedang menuntaskannya riset untuk Institute for Global Justice dan SOMO (Stichting Onderzoek Multinationale Ondernemingen) Belanda.

Harsono akan didampingi asisten Indarwati Aminuddin dan Sopian didampingi Budi Setiono. Indarwati sehari-hari bekerja sebagai direktur eksekutif Yayasan Pantau. Dia pernah bekerja untuk Kendari Pos, Kendari Ekspres, selain kontributor majalah Pantau. Sedangkan Setiono adalah sekretaris Yayasan Pantau, dan pernah bekerja untuk Suara Merdeka Cybernews selain menjadi redaktur bahasa Pantau. Dia mengelola lembaga nirlaba Masyarakat Indonesia Sadar Sejarah, dan pada 2003 menyunting buku kumpulan pidato politik Soekarno.

:: Silabus Workshop

Sesi 1, Senin 2 Mei 2005, pukul 09.30 – 11.00 <>

Kelas Bersama – Pembukaan: Membicarakan silabus, perkenalan dan diskusi tentang jurnalisme dasar melalui sudut pandang sembilan elemen jurnalisme dari Committee of Concerned Journalists, serta kesempatan yang ditawarkan sudut pandang ini untuk pengembangan media di Indonesia, termasuk pemakaian byline, pagar api, kolumnis dan sebagainya. [Andreas Harsono dan Agus Sopian]

Sesi 2, Senin 2 Mei 2005, pukul 11.30 – 13.00

Kelas Paralel – Andreas Harsono: Prinsip-prinsip dasar dalam melakukan reportase, melontarkan pertanyaan, menilai dokumen, serta mengutip sumber termasuk persoalan sumber anonim.

Kelas Paralel – Agus Sopian: Manajemen reportase komprehensif mulai pengenalan atas informasi pertama, liputan pendahuluan, wawancara, observasi lapangan hingga penulisan.

Sesi 3, Senin 2 Mei 2005, pukul 14.30 – 16.00

Kelas Paralel – Andreas Harsono: Diskusi tentang persoalan penulisan naratif dan bagaimana menulis profil dengan baik.


Kelas Paralel – Agus Sopian: Diskusi tentang apa yang dimaksud penulisan naratif, bagaimana perbedaannya dengan straight news dan feature, contoh-contoh penulisan naratif, dan bagaimana prospeknya untuk pengembangan media di Indonesia.

Sesi 4, Selasa 3 Mei 2005, pukul 09.30 – 11.00

Kelas Paralel – Andreas Harsono: Bahasa suratkabar dan penggunaan kata “saya” dalam laporan jurnalisme.

Kelas Paralel – Agus Sopian: Bahasa suratkabar dan sistem editing untuk karya jurnalisme dan non-fiksi lainnya.

Sesi 5, Selasa 3 Mei 2005, pukul 11.30 – 13.00


Kelas Paralel – Andreas Harsono: Diskusi tentang bagaimana membuat intro, membangun engine tulisan, alur dan struktur laporan naratif dan features.

Kelas Paralel Agus Sopian: Diskusi tentang bagaimana mendeskripsikan tempat, adegan, serta dialog dalam penulisan naratif.
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Sesi 6, Selasa 3 Mei 2005, pukul 14.30 – 16.00
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Kelas Paralel – Andreas Harsono: Diskusi lanjutan tentang bagaimana membuat intro, membangun engine tulisan, alur dan struktur laporan naratif dan features.
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Kelas Paralel Agus Sopian: Diskusi lanjutan tentang bagaimana mendeskripsikan tempat, adegan, serta dialog dalam penulisan naratif.
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Sesi 7, Rabu 4 Mei 2005, pukul 09.30 – 11.00

Kelas Paralel – Andreas Harsono: Membangun database pribadi, mulai kronologi kasus sampai pembuatan daftar kontak sumber untuk keperluan penulisan.

<>Kelas Paralel Agus Sopian: Sistem pencarian data melalui komputer. <>

Sesi 8, Rabu 4 Mei 2005, pukul 11.30 – 13.00

Kelas Bersama: Diskusi liputan isu lokal mulai persoalan nasionalisme Indonesia sampai isu pemilihan kepala daerah. [Andreas Harsono]

<>Sesi 9, Rabu 4 Mei 2005, pukul 14.30 – 16.00 <>

:: Bacaan Workshop

Sembilan Elemen Jurnalisme oleh Bill Kovach dan Tom Rosenstiel (Bagian 2 dan 4 tentang Kebenaran dan Jurnalisme Verifikasi).

Resensi Sembilan Elemen Jurnalisme oleh Andreas Harsono

Dari Thames ke Ciliwung oleh Andreas Harsono

Indonesia Kilometer Nol oleh Andreas Harsono

Asing di Tanah Aceh oleh Andreas Harsono

Cermin Jakarta, Cermin New York oleh Andreas Harsono

Taufik bin Abdul Halim oleh Agus Sopian

Tikungan Terakhir oleh Agus Sopian

Namaku Bre Redana oleh Linda Christanty

Hikayat Kebo oleh Linda Christanty

Kegilaan di Simpang Kraft oleh Chik Rini

Kejarlah Daku Kau Kusekolahkan oleh Alfian Hamzah

It’s an Honour oleh Jimmy Breslin

Journalism and the Scientific Tradition oleh Philip Meyer

Reporting with Computers an interview Philip Meyer with Margareth Sullivan


:: Tentang Yayasan Pantau

Yayasan Pantau adalah sebuah lembaga yang bertujuan memperbarui jurnalisme di Indonesia. Awalnya Pantau sebuah majalah yang diterbitkan oleh Institut Studi Arus Informasi (ISAI) pada tahun 1999. ISAI dan Article XIX, sebuah organisasi kebebasan media dari London, bersama-sama memantau televisi dan menerbitkan penelitiannya lewat “newsletter” Pantau.

Pada akhir 2000, muncul pemikiran untuk membuatnya lebih populer, tak hanya mengandalkan analisis isi. Maka, Maret 2001 Pantau diubah jadi majalah bulanan dengan liputan mendalam soal media dan jurnalisme. Pantau terbit rutin tiap Senin bulan pertama. Menurut survei Business Digest pada Oktober 2002, sebuah majalah Pantau rata-rata dibaca enam orang dan 62 persen pembaca Pantau adalah wartawan (media cetak disusul wartawan televisi). Sisanya politisi, akademisi, orang public relation, dan mahasiswa.

Ali Alatas, mantan menteri luar negeri Indonesia, termasuk pelanggan Pantau dan menyukai majalah ini. Liem Sioe Liong dari organisasi hak asasi manusia Tapol London menyebut majalah ini sebagai “majalah terbaik di Indonesia.” Muchtar Buchori, seorang legislator dari Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan dan kolumnis Jakarta Post, menyebutnya “majalah investigasi.”

Pantau terbit dengan laporan-laporan panjang baik soal media, Aceh, terorisme, dan lain-lain. Isinya, sekitar 60 persen soal media dan 40 persen non-media. Pantau jadi fenomena baru dalam jurnalisme Indonesia karena pertama kalinya media Indonesia diliput media lain dengan standar wajar –tanpa standar ganda karena khawatir saling mengganggu sesama wartawan. Pada Februari 2003, manajemen ISAI memutuskan menutup Pantau karena kesulitan cash flow.

Namun para kontributor Pantau merasa majalah ini harus diterbitkan lagi karena di Indonesia tak ada media yang menyajikan informasi dengan bercerita atau “story telling” macam The New Yorker atau The Atlantic Monthly. Riset dalam, referensi banyak, dan enak dibaca. Mereka ingin majalah ini terbit dengan isu luas: politik-cum-kebudayaan. Pantau manajemen baru terbit Desember 2003 dan kembali berhenti karena kesulitan cash flow. Pendanaan selalu menjadi persoalan krusial bagi Pantau, dan sesungguhnya persoalan ini pula yang membuat jurnalisme di Indonesia seperti jalan di tempat. Banyak media yang lebih memfokuskan diri pada penggalian laba, sementara pendidikan terhadap para wartawannya terabaikan.

Beberapa kontributor Pantau yang sebelumnya mendirikan Yayasan Pantau pada 2003, berinisiatif untuk menjalankan pelatihan-pelatihan wartawan dan diskusi terbatas demi mendorong perbaikan mutu jurnalisme di Indonesia.

Labor Activist Reunion

In March 1994, I began to cover a labor strike at PT Duta Busana Danastri in Jakarta. I was then a cub reporter for The Jakarta Post. PT Duta Busana Danastri was then doing contract works for the San Francisco-based Levi’s Strauss jeans maker.

The coverage turned out to be a long one as it attracted the attention of the Indonesian Human Rights Commission. The company initially asked their women workers to take off their panties every time the workers asked for their menstruation leave. I wrote that down, prompting high ranking officials at the Ministry of Labor to look at the company. Levi’s Strauss also responded by immediately stopping their contract with PT Duta Busana Danastri.

Some labor leaders were dismissed. They included Sitti Nurrofiqoh, who was then a radical activist but with a mild manner. Jonathan Head, then the new correspondent for BBC, was interested in the story. Jonathan made a feature about these workers. Jonathan asked me to bring him to the workers’ neighborhood in the Palmerah area. Jonathan cannot believe the sizes of their boarding rooms –only two by two square meters in a house filled by more than 30 people. The alleys stink. They also have to buy water.

I became their friends. Nurrofiqoh, Karsih, Siti Purwani, Yani and many others. Sometimes they visited my also small boarding house in Palmerah. Fiqoh won back her job at PT Duta Busana Danastri. I also brought them to see a Levi’s Strauss counter at Pasaraya, a huge department store owned by Abdul Latief, a businessman who was then heading the Ministry of Labor. They cannot believe that a pair of Levi’s pants cost them their one full month salary.

We never met again after the company finally closed their factory in the Palmerah area. Abdul Latief did nothing to improve the working condition of Indonesian workers which included Nurrofiqoh and her friends.

The company moved their assets to an industrial enclave outside Jakarta. It hired a public relations company to approach my bosses at The Jakarta Post to stop reporting the story. One of my editors unfortunately listened to this approach. I cannot continue writing that story. Fiqoh also went to work in another company in Tangerang.

It was ten years ago.

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We met again in mid-April 2005 when she knew my telephone number from someone else. I was so happy to know that they are still around in Jakarta.

Fiqoh (red shirt), Karsih (green shirt) and Nurasiah (white) visited my apartment. It was like a reunion. It saddened me to know that they are still working in industrial areas outside Jakarta with meager incomes. They have no savings. They are still labor activists. It saddened me to know that I have traveling all around the world. I received a fellowship from Harvard University. I moved to work with more interesting media companies but they are still here.

Fiqoh told me that I was the only journalist who covered that story from the beginning to the end. She also said that I am still “an idealist person” like the one that she knew. I am pretty proud of that. But one thing that I am not happy with. Fiqoh told me that I am fat now!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Media Survey in the Tsunami-Hit Aceh

Report to the Washington-based International Center for Journalists

When I arrived in Banda Aceh on April 6, 2005, Hotli Simandjuntak and Nani Afrida, two Banda Aceh-based journalists, unexpectedly picked me up at the Blang Bintang airport. They came to the airport not just to pick me up but also to bring me immediately to the newly-established Aceh Media Center. “We’re going to have a meeting with the USAID. I hope abang does not mind joining our meeting,” Nani said. “Abang” is an Acehnese word which literary means “big brother.”

Nani currently freelances for The Jakarta Post daily and takes photos for the Frankfurt-based European Photo Agency. She is an Acehnese, who is indeed a Muslim, while her boyfriend, Hotli, is a Christian Batak who freelances for TV7 in Jakarta. Nani is also the secretary of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) in Banda Aceh.

This union set up the Media Center to help freelancers to have a working space. The plan was drafted three years prior to the Dec. 26, 2004 tsunami. But it was only established on March 23, 2005 with a major funding from the German agency Friedrich Evert Stiftung.

When we reached the office on Jalan Merak, it was still empty. Hotli unlocked the door. Nani showed me around the two-story building. It is a relatively spacious office. It has two rooms on the ground floor and three on the second. It has five PCs, one laptop, a television set, one air conditioner and furniture.

“We could gather here but we don’t have the internet yet,” Nani said.

Zainal Arifin Nur, a reporter for the Banda Aceh-based Serambi Indonesia daily, who manages the day-to-day operation of the office, arrived and joined us. Nani said when most international journalists were still in Aceh, most UN officials and representatives of the Ausaid, the USAID and other international agencies, held their media meetings in a UN compound that also provides internet connection. But now most international journalists have left Aceh. They left local journalists like to them to cover the stories. “When we opened this Center, we invited them to come. Unexpectedly they all came here,” said Nani.

“We agreed that we need to know each other better. The UNDP officials, who came here, said they need to contact local journalists to inform the public about their works,” Nani said.

Hotli added that the UNDP people did not realize the works of the local journalists until the establishment of the Media Center. “Many of us work for international media organizations,” Hotli added. He himself used to work for Agence France Presse. Other journalists work for Reuters, Associated Press as well as Indonesian newspapers in Medan and Jakarta.

USAID Meeting

In the afternoon, journalists began to trickle into the Media Center. Nani introduced me to all of them. AJI has 18 members in Banda Aceh –about 10 percent of the journalists population.

Novalina Kusdarman and Restu Prathiwi of the USAID Jakarta also arrived. I know them since the 1990s in Jakarta. Novi is in charge of the USAID media program. Restu currently works with Development Alternatives Inc. –a USAID contractor in Banda Aceh. USAID is one of the biggest donor agencies in Aceh. The purpose of the visit, Novi said, is to get to know AJI people as well as to get input what the USAID could do in helping them. She said that she is based in Jakarta but Restu is in Banda Aceh.

Nurdin Hasan, the president of AJI Banda Aceh, began the introduction. He said before the tsunami, Banda Aceh had 11 radio stations. Now it has five stations. It still has one television station, the state-owned TVRI Banda Aceh, which is now airing local program 1.5 hours per day. It used to have 2 hours programming.

The number of newspapers interestingly increased. Now Aceh has two dailies: Serambi and Rakyat Aceh, respectively owned by media giants, Kompas Gramedia Group (Jakarta) and Jawa Pos Group (Surabaya). Aceh also has some weeklies: Modus tabloid as well as the “irregular” Media NAD and Warna entertainment tabloid. “They are not serious newspapers. Sometimes they publish, sometimes they don’t,” said Nurdin. Outside Banda Aceh, people only have radios, at least one in every district.

Nurdin said the idea to set up the Media Center appeared about three years ago when the Free Acheh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government under President Abdurrahman Wahid had agreed to have a ceasefire. “It was important to have a place where journalists and the conflicting sides could communicate openly,” said Nurdin. Journalists were then routinely pressured to publish press releases either by the GAM guerillas or by the Indonesian military.

But the plan was cancelled when President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who succeeded Wahid, declared martial law in Aceh on May 19, 2003. Jakarta mobilized more than 20,000 troops to hunt down the Aceh guerillas, who were then estimated at 8,000. The Indonesian military banned newspapers from quoting GAM courses. Aceh media also imposed self-censorship. Newspaper circulation dropped. But suddenly the tsunami hit the western coast of Aceh on December 26, 2004. It killed more than 125,000 Acehnese and internationalized the Acehnese cause.

International journalists, who were barred entering Aceh since the 1980s, were freed to visit the territory. International correspondents moved quickly to cover the tsunami. Nurdin and his colleagues decided to open up that plan once again.

“What do the journalists need?” asked Novi.

Mohd. Hamzah, the correspondent for the Jakarta-based Suara Pembaruan daily, said that one month after the tsunami most journalists could not write. “The tragedy consumed us psychologically. International and Indonesian journalists arrived, did cover stories and did write. We could not write,” Hamzah said.

“Journalists lost their computers, cameras and even clothes. In the second month, we began to be able to work again,” said Hamzah.

“Our difficulties are now English. Most of the international bodies speak in English and released their statements in English. Is it possible to organize an English course, for instance, in America for a month?”

Everybody laughed. Novi said she would take notes.

Hamzah complained about media organizations that do not bother to help their Aceh correspondents. “I don’t have a place to live. I cannot afford to rent a house until now,” Hamzah said.

Nani Afrida added that English is a major obstacle in Banda Aceh now. Many international bodies are taking over works from both the Aceh and the Indonesian governments, making English the working language among various organizations in reconstructing Aceh. It has been isolated so long that it is a rare to meet an Acehnese journalist who is able to write in English. Nani herself writes her stories in Indonesian.

Arief Rahman, the correspondent of the Medan-based Analisa daily, stressed that the most important thing for journalists is their working tools. “It is difficult to get tape recorders, computers, in Aceh. How could you work?”

Said Kamaruzzaman of Serambi said he had only bought his hand phone a month ago. “My motorcycle was also lost in the tsunami,” he added.

The discussion became lively, going around about equipments, English courses and psychological healing process. Some questioned whether it is possible to have an English course outside Aceh such as Bali or Australia. Others complained about rising prices of houses. Half of the houses in Banda Aceh were destroyed by the waves. Property values rose sky high. I also knew that the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists had worked with AJI to distribute US$ 53.000 among AJI members victimized by the tsunami. But I assumed the process was still going on.

Serambi Indonesia

My next appointment was to meet Mohammad Dim, the business manager of Serambi in his temporary office in Banda Aceh.

“Abang Dim” is one of the most popular editors at Serambi. He used to be an editor of Kontras tabloid, weekly supplement of Serambi. The tsunami killed many Kontras journalists and closed the tabloid too. Dim is humble, low key and as long as I know, never got involved with politicians –a bad habit among many journalists in this part of the world.

“I took over this job because our business manager was killed in the tsunami,” he told me.

Serambi became popular after 1998 when Suharto was deposed by the pro-democracy movement. Serambi broke free from the customary self-censorship and began to report freely on the Aceh independent movement. Its circulation soared.

In 2003, President Megawati declared the martial law. The Indonesian army demanded that Serambi's editors stop giving a voice to the rebels. Coordinating Minister on Security Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono headed a task force on the martial law. He later succeeded his boss to become Indonesia’s current president. Serambi was threatened with closure.

Late last year, it was feared that the tsunami might achieve what the publications' enemies had always wanted: to close them down. If Serambi could not recover, it would have been a serious blow to free speech in Aceh.

The newspaper's two-story building, about a kilometer from the sea, was devastated. The water demolished Serambi print shop and carried away all three $450,000, 5-ton German printing presses. Nearly a third of Serambi's staff was killed. The waves swept away eleven of 38 reporters and five of 13 editors. Overall, more than 50 of the 180 people who worked for Serambi are gone.

Publisher Sjamsul Kahar, Dim and their colleagues, however, wanted to get the paper going again as soon as possible. On January 1, just six days after the disaster, Serambi Indonesia was back in circulation, albeit on a drastically reduced scale. It was printed in its second print shop in Lhokseumawe, the second city in Aceh.

At first, Serambi was handed out for free, just to let readers know it was still around. Now, it's available for 1,500 Indonesian rupiahs (about 17 cents) — a 500-rupiah discount from the pre-tsunami price.

In the pre-tsunami days, it printed 22,000 copies in Banda Aceh and 12,000 in Lhokseumawe. According to Dim, it is now printing 22-23,000 copies a day in Lhokseumawe, the second city in Aceh.

Dim already knew about the ICFJ from the email correspondences between Rob Taylor of the ICFJ and the Serambi newsroom. When I asked Dim what the ICFJ could do to help his works, he told me, “Training the staff.”

“In the newsroom, what we need is a training on writing, ethics and the philosophy in journalism. Layout is also poor. In the business side, we need a training on marketing the ad spaces and newspaper circulation. Promotion is also weak.”

“The training is very urgent! I myself have no business background,” Dim said.

I asked him when he expect the business training to be organized.

“The sooner is the better. We really need the business training. So that we could implement it as soon as possible.”

Dim mentioned some crucial issues i.e. circulation, service marketing, ad marketing, general marketing, aptitude in marketing.

“Where should we do it? We cannot do it in your (small) office indeed?”

“In Banda Aceh, we have some hotels like Hotel Sulthan, Hotel Cakra Donya or Wisma Daka. They have clean water, telephone, but you need to check them yourself,” he said, adding that if the ICFJ could hold a training in Banda Aceh, he could send five marketing and five circulation personnel to join in the training program (I checked the three hotels. Hotel Sulthan is the only one that has meeting rooms. Please click my blog to see some pictures of the hotel: http://andreasharsono.blogspot.com/2005/04/banda-aceh-training-facilities_09.html)

I asked Dim about the editorial training. He said it is also imperative as it is also high time to elevate the standards of Serambi. But he recommended me to talk to his boss, Sjamsul Kahar, to discuss more about the editorial training. “I believe that we could sell the newspaper better if the editorial content is also better.”

So he arranged a meeting with Sjamsul Kahar.

We chatted for a while. I asked him about the arrival of the Jawa Pos Group in Aceh with Rakyat Aceh daily. Dim said he welcomes the new daily as it helps Serambi to have a competitor.

“Pak Sjamsul” or “Mister Sjamsul” is a burly man with a Stalin-styled moustache. I met him in another office of Serambi –also another temporary office in Banda Aceh. It is crowded. It was full of cigarette smokes. The newsroom has only five PCs. The design room is much more crowded. I used to visit the pre-tsunami Serambi office. It is sad to see them working in dilapidated office like this.

Sjamsul told me he has two priorities right now. The first is to rebuild the print shop scheduled to be installed in May and the office by June. “Thanks God, we still have the trust of the banks. They would like to give me loans to build our office,” he said, adding that the loan is very likely to come from the Banda Aceh-based BPD bank.

He will also use a bank loan to get his press machine although the French government had promised it might help with an engine from a Paris newspaper. His corporate office, Kompas Gramedia Group, in Jakarta also is to provide financial assistance to rebuild Serambi.

The second is to build Serambi’s human resources. He said the training should not only recover the newspaper editorial content but also to get outside help to make it a better newspaper.

“We need something new, something fresh, we need a comparison.”

“I have read Bill Kovach’s book. I think independence is the answer to our journalism. Over the last three decades, our press is a crabby journalism. But we could understand that habit when editors and journalists have to associate themselves with those with power. The purpose is to survive,” Sjamsul said.

(I am indeed pleased to hear Sjamsul mentioning Bill Kovach. I helped translate and publish Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel’s The Elements of Journalism into Indonesian in 2003)

Sjamsul already knew the ICFJ and told me about his correspondence with Rob Taylor. He told me to tell the ICFJ to organize an in-house training for Serambi editors and reporters. “I will join that course too,” he said.

He stressed that he wants his journalists to be “brainwashed” (he used the word in English) from the remains of the New Order censorship.

But Sjamsul also recognized the needs to have a longer workshop on reporting and writing skills. Just like Mohammad Dim, Sjamsul told me to do it outside Banda Aceh, but not too far from Banda Aceh, so that the participants could focus on their learning.

His choice is Sabang, a small town on Weh Island. “If you could provide ten seats for Serambi, I will send five old time employees and five new recruits,” he said. I agree with them and disagree with some other Banda Aceh journalists who recommend me to do it outside Aceh i.e. Bali, Jakarta or even Berastagi in North Sumatra. They are too costly.

He also suggested the ICFJ to send a newspaper designer to train Serambi art people, saying that he does not mind to share the training class with other newspapers (A Serambi designer told me they used PageMaker Version 8 and Photoshop Version 7). “Practically, it will be good if I could finish the reconstruction of the office and the recruitment. Our contractor said it will be finalized in June but there are already some delays. I expect the office to be completed in July. So we could do the training in August.”

Warna tabloid and TVRI

I also met Suhadri Syalnas, the head of TVRI Banda Aceh, in his office in the Mata’ie area. Suhadri is a Minang, an ethnic group who originates from western Sumatra. He used to work in Banda Aceh for six years prior to an assignment in Jakarta. He showed me the vast compounds of TVRI. Hundreds of refugees built their camps in the compound.

“The structure of the main building already cracked. I built a temporary studio in the transmission building,” Suhadri said.

Some Japanese engineers have analyzed the building structure and recommended him to evacuate the building. It might collapse with another temblor. Earthquakes occur almost every other day in Aceh after the Dec. 26 temblor at 9.0 Richter scale that created the massive tsunami.

He said TVRI used to have 31 transmission towers throughout Aceh but 10 went off with the tsunami. I asked him which organizations had helped TVRI. He said Internews had donated a computer for writing running text. An Internews trainer also came to Banda Aceh to train TVRI producers using that computer. Tomi Satryatomo, a Trans TV producer in Jakarta, also work in the TVRI office on 10-24 April.

I asked him what the ICFJ could do. He said an in-house training on news production and video editing would help. Everyday TVRI produces 1.5 hours of programming. Their ends at 5 pm. “We could start the training after that,” said Suhadri. He reminded me to avoid organizing training program in October due to the Ramadan fasting month. “It is better to do it in August or September.”

TVRI has 233 staff and only around 20 are journalists and cameramen. Satryatomo, however, sent me an email, saying that he is frustrated to know how TVRI journalists work. They usually cover stories based on “envelopes” and government invitations.

I also arranged a meeting with the now defunct Warna tabloid. I met Ridwan Mukhtar, its managing editor, and Mahfudz, its business manager, in a shop house in the busy Darussalam neighborhood in Banda Aceh.

They showed me the two issues that they used to publish last year. Warna was first published in August 2004. Its second edition came out in October 2004. It did not appear again until the tsunami hit Aceh in December. It submitted a $250,000 proposal to the ICFJ to help republish the “entertainment tabloid.”

Ridwan said it is an entertainment tabloid with photos of artists and “many other talented Aceh artists.” He also said that Aceh need to be a cultural revival. He also criticized “mainstream media” like Serambi, Acehkita magazine or Rakyat Timor, saying that they rarely publish “positive reports” about Aceh’s cultural life. He said Warna has got many contributors throughout Aceh.

He said he wants the new Warna to be distributed freely among Aceh refugees in their camps.

“What’s more important for the refugees: an entertainment tabloid or a newspaper with information about their daily supplies or government policies?”

Warna will provide those information as well,” Ridwan answered.

“Is it an entertainment tabloid or a refugee newspaper?”

“It is a newspaper for the refugees,” said Ridwan.

I also asked them the budget of $250,000. Isn’t not too big? Mahfudz frankly told me that the budget was too expensive. He had questioned his friends whether it was wise to submit such a huge budget to the ICFJ when their real need is much smaller.

I got the impression that these two young men were enthusiastic about their cause but they were confused about how to do it. I agree that the Acehnese cultural values should be strengthened. I agree that entertainment is important for the Acehnese. I think everyone agree that the refugees do need information. But we need to have a clear plan to pursue those agendas. I think it is better to give Ridwan a chance to participate in a journalist training or Mahfudz in a business workshop. Who knows it might help them when the timing, the planning and their capital are enough to republish their tabloid?

CoHA coffee shop

A must-visit place for visiting journalists in Aceh is a coffee shop in the Simpang Lima area in downtown Banda Aceh. This shop has no name. It is simply a large wooden table behind a coffee shop whose owner serve coffee and snacks. But it is the place where most Aceh working journalists spend their time, chatting and exchanging information. I even saw a small trade about “card reader” to transfer photo files.

They called it the “CoHA” coffee shop. “CoHA” is the acronym of the "Cessation of Hostilities Agreement" --the ceasefire arrangement on Aceh promoted by the Geneva-based Henry Dunant Center in 2002. Aceh journalists altered it into “kongkow-kongkow haha-haha.” Kongkow is a Hokkian-derived word which literary means “chatting.” Haha is indeed laughing. It is a coffee shop for chatting and laughing.

I went there on April 8, 2005, to meet scores of journalists and to test my initial finding. I also met Tarmizy Harva, a photojournalist stringing for Reuters. Tarmizy won the honorable mention by the World Press Photo in 2003. I also met journalists working for the newly-published Rakyat Timor.

I asked Tarmizy if there is anything that an international organization like the ICFJ could do in Aceh. He laughed, “Could we dream of having James Nacthwey leads a photo workshop in Aceh?”

I said I would bring this to Rob Taylor in Washington DC. Who knows Nacthwey would like to spend his time in Banda Aceh?

Or else, Tarmizy said, we could invite Oscar Motuloh or Arbain Rambey, the photojournalists in Jakarta, to hold a workshop in Banda Aceh.

Hotli Simandjuntak reminded me if the Media Center could get a complete collection of the now defunct Pantau magazine (25 issues). I used to edit this media magazine. Most Aceh journalists received this magazine thanks to Exxon Mobil, an American company which runs the Arun gas reserve in Lhokseumawe. It paid the subscription of the magazine in Aceh for the whole two years it existed between 2001 and 2003.

Asnawi Kumar of Rakyat Aceh responded to the idea to organize a workshop in Sabang, “Human resources is a huge problem in Aceh.” He said it is a good idea to hold a workshop outside Banda Aceh but not too far from the capital. “Sabang is a good choice,” he said. I told him I have visited Sabang and looked at Sabang Hill Hotel. “It is a quiet place to isolate the journalists,” he smiled.

Asnawi is Rakyat Aceh’s most senior journalist. He used to edit Atjeh Ekspres daily in 1999. It became a fierce competition to Serambi in those post-Suharto days. GAM considered Atjeh Ekspres to be friendly with the guerillas. It made the newspaper the gatekeeper to its independence celebration held on Dec. 4, 2000 in Sigli area in the hinterland of Aceh. Its circulation rose to 23,500 copies when it faced a cash problem. Its owner was a social foundation led by Z.A. Maulani, a former head of the State Intelligent Agency –the Indonesian equivalent of the CIA! The foundation did not help the newspaper. It went bankrupt.

He met Dahlan Iskan, the CEO of Jawa Pos Group, when Dahlan was visiting Banda Aceh on Jan. 12, 2005. Dahlan decided to publish a newspaper in Aceh to compete with Serambi while it was still struggling with the destruction. The paper was printed in a Jawa Pos print shop in Medan. The name is Rakyat Aceh. But it does not have an office yet. Asnawi and other Rakyat Aceh journalists worked in Banda Aceh, typing in wherever places that could provide free computers and free internet for them and sending the stories to Medan at 6 p.m.

I asked him how to select the participants of the workshop. He said it should be open through a selection process. The best way is to ask the would-be participants to write an essay and to submit a story that they had written. The criteria should also include integrity. “I would like to see women being prioritized. At least five seats should be allocated for women,” Asnawi said, adding that most journalists in Aceh are men. I took some photos in Banda Aceh and uploaded them in my blog: http://andreasharsono.blogspot.com/2005/04/banda-aceh-journalists.html


Recommendations

My recommendation is to do the in-house courses on design and journalism in the new office of Serambi. It means we could wait until August or September. The design course is opened to non-Serambi journalists. They did not mention any name but I guess they expect an American designer to conduct the workshop.

But the journalism course is designed only for Serambi journalists and editors (Sjamsul Kahar is included). We could arrange the course every day in the slowest hours of the day. Maybe one week is enough.

But the workshop on business and circulation are more urgent. So I suggest we do it at Hotel Sultan in Banda Aceh. Mohd. Dim stressed the needs to do the business workshop as quick as possible. The participants need not to sleep in the hotel.

But we need to organize a more serious workshop, a longer one, to be organized openly in Sabang. The selection should be opened. I have two Sabang journalists who are eager to help the logistical aspect of the training in Sabang. I expect Nani Afrida and Hotli Simandjuntak to help with organizing the Banda Aceh courses but I realized later that they are very busy with their jobs. Another possibility is to ask Chik Rini and Raihan Lubis, two other Banda Aceh journalists, to help prepare the training there.

Translators are needed in all of those workshops unless we could get trainers who speak Malay or Indonesian. Chik Rini suggested we find an English student at the Syiah Kuala University to be the translator.

I checked some hotels both in Banda Aceh and Sabang. I think Hotel Sulthan and Sabang Hill Hotel are the best options that we have. They are not pricey but we need to do the booking early. I prepared a review of the Sabang hotel in my blog: http://andreasharsono.blogspot.com/2005/04/sabang-training-facilities_08.html

I think it is better to let the Internews do the television training just like what they do with radios. The ICFJ could focus its work on print journalism. The works here are pretty huge. If we could help Serambi to recover their human resources, there will always other works to do to elevate their quality. I would like to see the ICFJ open its works with these training programs but it will move futher with future commitments.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Banda Aceh Journalists

Banda Aceh has a lively journalist community although it practically has only a single daily newspaper –the Serambi Indonesia. But many journalists work as correspondents for various media outlets in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, or Jakarta. Most journalists are familiar with the guerilla war between Indonesian soldiers and the Free Acheh Movement, which declared Acheh’s independence in December 1976.

Serambi is a subsidiary of the Jakarta-based Kompas Gramedia Group, Indonesia’s largest media conglomerate. A new newspaper, the Rakyat Timor, was published on January 17, 2005, nearly a month after the tsunami hit Aceh or five days after Jawa Pos CEO Dahlan Iskan visited Banda Aceh. The Jawa Pos Group is the arch rival of the Kompas Gramedia Group. It has more than 120 newspapers throughout Indonesia. It is owned by the Tempo magazine.

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Aceh Media Center on Jalan Merak in Banda Aceh. It was only established on March 23, 2005 by the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI). The German funding agency Friedrich Ebert Stiftung helped the union to rent this two-story house. It also handed over five PCs, one laptop, some printers, a television set and furnitures to equip this new office. It is also used as a media center where freelance journalists like Nani Afrida of The Jakarta Post dan Hotli Simandjuntak of TV7 could work.

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Nurdin Hasan, the chairman of AJI Banda Aceh, who works for the Serambi Indonesia. He was chairing a meeting between AJI members and two representatives of the US Aid International Agency.

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The “CoHA” coffee shop for Aceh journalists. “CoHA” is the acronym of the "Cessation of Hostilities Agreement" --the ceasefire agreement in Aceh between 2002 and 2003. But Aceh journalists altered it into “kongkow-kongkow haha-haha.” Kongkow is a Hokkian-derived word which literary means “chatting.” It is a coffee shop for chatting and laughing.


News stand in Neusu, Banda Aceh. It is common to see news stands like this throughout Banda Aceh. Neuse is a bustling market in Banda Aceh. It was saved from the tsunami as it was pretty far from the coastline.


Serambi Indonesia daily, the oldest newspaper in Banda Aceh. Like most Indonesian newspapers, it has no byline. It lost more than 50 staff in the tsunami.

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Mohammad Dim used to be the managing editor of the Kontras weekly tabloid –a supplement of the Serambi Indonesia daily. The tsunami closed down the tabloid. Dim took over the business management of the daily when most of his business colleagues perished in the tsunami. “We lost more than 40 business staffs including the marketing head, the circulation man and the finance guy,” he said. Dim wanted his remaining staffs to be trained in marketing and circulation.

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Serambi Indonesia lost its huge office in the tsunami. They currently work in a temporary office in Banda Aceh. Sjamsul Kahar, its publisher-cum-chief editor, told me that he is now building the office again, hoping that it will be completed in July 2005.

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Mahfud and Ridwan Ridwan Mukhtar of the now defunct Warna tabloid in their office on the second floor of a shop-house in the Darussalam area in Banda Aceh. Ridwan stressed the importance to have a cultural magazine in Aceh. Mahfud said it is unrealistic to suggest a $250,000 annual budget for a tabloid like Warna. They wanted to distribute Warna freely among refugees and added the content with daily needs at the barracks.

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Tarmizy Harva, the Reuters photographer in Aceh, sat in the well known “CoHA” coffee shop in the Banda Aceh downtown area. Tarmizy won the honorable mention at the 2003 World Press Photo awards. He photographed some women who were shocked when finding out their family member was tightened to a tree and murdered allegedlly by Indonesian soldiers. Tarmizy has a dream, “I want to see James Nacthwey to lead a photo workshop in Banda Aceh.”

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(from left to right) Mohd. Hamzah of the Suara Pembaruan evening daily, Riznal Faizal of the Rakyat Aceh and Syawaluddin of the Medan Bisnis daily. They sat and chatted in a journalist coffee shop in downtown Banda Aceh. Riznal is the chief editor of the Rakyat Aceh. His newspaper was published on January 17, 2005 or 21 days after the tsunami. Its presence makes the long-established Serambi Indonesia management uneasy.

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Asnawi Kumar is the chief correspondent of the Rakyat Aceh. He used to work for the now defunct Atjeh Post daily, owned by the Jakarta-based Media Group. Later he edited the now defunct Aceh Ekspres, an independent newspaper published in 1999, but closed shop due to financial difficulties. Asnawi suggested that a sophisticated training to be organized in Aceh. “Let’s do it in Sabang so that the journalists could stay away from their daily routine,” he said, adding that the journalists should be selected based on a set of criteria. “We should give a certain portion to women.”

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Banda Aceh Training Facilities

In spent three days in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh, to talk with journalists and to find out the training facilities in the area. I went there as an emissary of the Washington-based International Center for Journalists that is interested to do some training in the post-tsunami Aceh.

Some Banda Aceh editors suggested that the Center to organize some courses on newspaper marketing, newspaper design, television journalism and print journalism in Banda Aceh.

Sjamsul Kahar, the publisher of the Serambi Indonesia daily, offered the trainings to be conducted in his new office scheduled to be completed in July.

But one or two courses have to be organized in a third place where non-Serambi people could participate. I took a lot at Hotel Sulthan to check their facilities.

Banda Aceh used to have two good hotels. But the Kuala Tripa Hotel was destroyed in the tsunami.

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Hotel Sulthan in Banda Aceh. Some journalists told me it is the only “representative hotel” in town. It is located in the Simpang Lima area, a walking distance to the Baiturrahman grand mosque and very close to the office of the Association of Indonesian Journalists. They are frequently used by international NGOs and UN bodies in Banda Aceh to hold their training sessions. When I visited this hotel on April 7, the World Vision was having a workshop.

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Lenny Purmawanti, the marketing manager of Hotel Sulthan, showed me one of two meeting rooms that her clients could use. A meeting room costs IDR 1 million per day which include white board, markers, overhead projector and furnitures. This room is enough to accommodate 15-20 participants. She also provides computers.

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Lenny Purmawanti also showed me the Hotel Sulthan dining room. This hotel was flooded with mud during the tsunami. It took the management nearly two months to clean up and to renovate this hotel. I used to stay in this hotel during the martial law. Surprisingly this hotel is much better managed in the post-tsunami era.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Kunjungan ke Aceh

Selama tiga malam aku ada di Aceh. Aku diminta oleh International Center for Journalists, satu organisasi media di Washington DC, untuk mempelajari kemungkinan mereka melakukan sesuatu untuk Aceh pasca tsunami. Aku suka melakukannya karena mereka mau serius berpikir soal pendekatan yang baik.

Maka pergilah aku dari Cengkareng Rabu ini. Di Banda Aceh bertemu dengan berbagai macam wartawan. Baik dari Aliansi Jurnalis Independen maupun mereka yang sering kongkow di warung kopi Coha --secara gurauan singkatan dari "kongkow kongkow haha haha"-- depan kantor Persatuan Wartawan Indonesia.

Aku juga pergi ke Sabang lihat fasilitas pelatihan disana. Ini juga hari-hari yang berat karena ada masalah asmara yang aku hadapi. Apalagi kalau bukan urusan patah hati!

Tapi pemandangan Sabang menyenangkan. Aku juga beruntung karena tinggal di rumah Nani Afrida --pacarnya Hotli Simandjuntak. Adik Nani, Tina alias Tince, juga ceria dan suka bergurau. Mereka sangat membantu. Hotli mengambilkan foto-foto aku untuk persiapan back cover buku. Ia memilih lokasi dekat Ule Lheue.

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Hotli bilang ia suka dengan ketersendirian rumah yang rusak dihantam tsunami ini. Ia memotret lebih dari 50 frame. Macam-macam gaya. Ati Nurbaiti dari The Jakarta Post tersenyum saja lihat aku difoto Hotli. Nani juga ikutan memotret Hotli yang memotret aku.

Ule Lheue Diterkam Tsunami

Aku tak tahu sejak kapan aku mulai memperhatikan penderitaan rakyat Acheh. Mungkin pertemanan. Sama dengan ketika pertama kali kenal dengan Manuel Abrantes, seorang aktivis Timor Leste di Salatiga pada 1980-an. Manuel mengajarku soal penderitaan rakyat Timor Leste. Manuel bilang orang Indonesia baik, tapi tentara-tentara Indonesia banyak bikin orang Timor Leste menderita.

Aku bisa kenal dengan Manuel karena kami sama-sama kuliah di kampus yang sama. Sebuah kebetulan. Tapi Acheh? Aku dulu tak punya banyak kawan dari Acheh. Maklum, aku kuliah di sebuah universitas Kristen. Paling-paling kenal satu atau dua mahasiswa Aceh ketika lagi main-main di Universitas Islam Indonesia di Jogjakarta.

(Setelah Republik Demokratik Timor Lorosae merdeka, Manuel ditunjuk oleh Presiden Xanana Gusmao dan Perdana Menteri Mari Alkatiri menjadi menteri junior urusan hukum)

Tapi kalau aku harus tarik garis mundur dan mencari peristiwa dengan orang Acheh yang paling penting pada titik awal. Aku kira perkenalan dengan Z. Afif adalah titik awal itu.

Afif seorang penyair Acheh tinggal di Stockholm. Ia mengajar Bahasa Acheh untuk anak-anak Acheh yang ikut orang tua mereka mengungsi di Stockholm.

Kejadiannya pada Januari 2001 --ketika aku bikin liputan soal Gerakan Acheh Merdeka di Stockholm, Swedia. Aku mewawancarai baik kubu Hasan di Tiro maupun saingan mereka, MP GAM pimpinan Husaini Hassan. Afif dan isterinya, Rondang Marpaung, datang menemuiku di hotel. Afif lebih dekat dengan kubu Husaini.

Afif bukan tipe orang yang berapi-api. Ia sopan sekali. Kami juga bicara soal Indonesia dengan nyaman. Tak ada nada kebencian pada struktur Indonesia. Afif juga senang melihat dummy majalah Pantau yang aku bawa ke Stockholm karena memang lagi mengerjakan persiapan majalah Pantau.

Mereka cerita riwayat hidup mereka. Hidup di Hanoi, Beijing dan Stockholm karena represi Orde Baru. Afif pula yang secara bijak mendorongku untuk pergi ke Aceh dan melihat-lihat.

Tapi sepulang dari Stockholm, aku harus memimpin Pantau. Aku jadi editor. Aku harus memberikan kesempatan pada orang lain untuk bepergian. Aku sendiri harus jaga gawang di Jakarta. Seorang editor, menurut kepercayaanku, tidak bisa jadi egois. Aku harus memberi kesempatan pada orang lain untuk jalan. Kalau kami ada dana bepergian, biasanya aku memberikannya pada para wartawan.

Apalagi belakangan Chik Rini, seorang wartawan Banda Aceh yang berbakat, ikut gabung dengan Pantau. Aku tak bisa ke Aceh. Rini praktis meliput Aceh dengan sempurna. Ia bahkan membuat laporan "Sebuah Kegilaan di Simpang Kraft" yang mendapat banyak pujian.

Namun nasib berkata lain. Majalah Pantau tutup pada Februari 2003. Aku merasa sakit hati. Tapi ada hikmah juga. Aku bisa bekerja lagi sebagai reporter. Aku bisa jalan-jalan lagi. Pada Juni 2003 aku pergi ke Aceh pertama kalinya. Aku keliling ke banyak tempat.

Perjalanan ini jadi awal dari love affair Aceh dan aku. Sama dengan Timor Leste jadi sering aku kunjungi, maka Aceh pun jadi salah satu tempat dimana aku sering datang. Aku bahkan punya hotel langganan, warung kopi langganan, kedai nasi, tukang cukur dan sebagainya. Aku mulai lebih sering menulis soal "Aceh dan Acheh."

Ketika tsunami 26 Desember 2004 menghantam Acheh, aku sebenarnya lagi jalan di pedalaman Sambas di Kalimantan Barat. Aku lagi meliput soal pembunuhan orang-orang Tionghoa 1967 serta Madura 1997-1999. Tapi sempat nonton televisi tentang tsunami. Juga sempat geram membaca pernyataan-pernyataan bodoh para pejabat Jakarta di harian Pontianak Post. Liputan Sambas aku bikin lebih pendek. Aku langsung terbang ke Banda Aceh.


Suatu sore Nani Afrida dan Hotli Simandjuntak, sepasang wartawan Banda Aceh, mengajakku melihat nelayan Aceh menanam bibit pohon bakau di pantai Ule Lheu. Kami datang dengan four wheel drive milik Hotli. Aku bergidik melihat kerusakan di pantai ini. Pada Juni 2003, aku lewat disini, sebuah perkampungan nelayan padat, yang sempat aku rekam dalam tape recorder. Kini ia jadi serakan puing. Ule Lheue salah satu daerah paling rusak karena tsunami 26 Desember 2004.


Sunset in Ule Lheu. Ketika senja menjelang, aku termenung di Ule Lheu. Aku hanya berdiam. Ada keindahan dalam kengerian. Aku melihat para nelayan menanam bakau. “Orang-orang tua kami bilang pohon bakau mengurangi tsunami. Bisa sekilo (meter) kurangnya,” kata seorang nelayan. Aku mengirim SMS kepada banyak teman tentang kerusakan di Ule Lheu ini. Ule Lheue dihajar ombak hingga lebih dari 5 KM. Garis pantai bergeser. Kehidupan mengenaskan setelah 26 Desember 2004.

Sabang Training Facilities


Ule Lheue harbor in Banda Aceh.

In early April 2004, I visited Sabang, a small town on Weh Island, in the northern tip of Sumatra, to find out about the training facilities in the area. I went there as an emissary of the Washington-based International Center for Journalists that is interested to do some training program in the post-tsunami Aceh.

Some Banda Aceh editors suggested that I am to help organize a journalist training in Sabang. Mohd. Dim of Serambi Indonesia daily said it is quiet. Sabang is a better place to study and to contemplate on how to develop journalism rather than the busy and noisy Banda Aceh. I agreed with their suggestions as I used to visit Sabang in mid-2003.

Dim recommended me to take a look at the Sabang Hill Hotel, about one kilometer from Sabang’s downtown area. I went there with a speed boat and took a "becak mesin" --a motorcycle equipped with a side car-- to reach the hotel.

I spent only a night in Sabang, roaming Jalan Perdagangan area, talking with some journalists and having a simple dinner of noodle soup in a Chinese shop. I had a problem with cash as the two ATM machines in Sabang did not receive both my cards. They were owned respectively by Indonesian banks BRI and BPD. Hendra Handyan of the Serambi Indonesia in Sabang, helped me with some IDR 100,000 or around $11 --enough to buy my boat ticket back to Banda Aceh.

I like Sabang indeed. The scenery is majestic. It takes only 45 minutes to reach Sabang from Banda Aceh. The Baruna Duta III speed boat leaves Banda Aceh every day at 3 p.m. The ticket price was IDR 35,000 for one trip. It returns to Banda Aceh from the Halohan harbor every morning at 8:30 am.

Ule Lheue used to be a long dock but it was destroyed by the tsunami. Now speed boats like the Baruna Duta III has to dock on a temporary pier. The ride is pleasant. The cabin air conditioner worked very well --it was even too cold.


Sabang Hill Hotel is located at the top of a hill overlooking the Sabang bay. It is a three-star old hotel. It is well managed. It is clean. My only problem is that it is difficult to travel from the hill to the downtown area. The food is standard and it is more tempting to test the various street vendors on Jalan Perdagangan than to have dinners at the hotel.


Liza Hastika, the marketing manager of Sabang Hill Hotel, accompanied me to see the compound. She said many UN workers vacationed in her hotel. They sometimes have barbeques at night in the neatly manicured garden. Hendra Handyan, the Sabang correspondent of the Serambi Indonesia, told me that it would be an honor for Sabang if a journalist training is to be held in Sabang. “The (Sabang) Mayor and other town leaders are more than happy to be involved in the discussions or to join the dinners,” he said.


The dining room at the hotel is pretty large. It is able to manage a big function. Liza Hastika said the hotel has no other meeting room. The dining room could be arranged into a smaller room with a partition to be a training facility. Or else we could use the penthouse in the hotel.


A standard double-bed room at Sabang Hill Hotel. It has five rooms like this and eight rooms each with a single queen-sized bed. The prices are between IDR 240,000 and IDR 300,000 per night or approximately between $25 to $32 per night. It also has bigger rooms. Each room has a bathroom and air conditioned.


A view of the Sabang Bay from the hotel. I arrived at the hotel just in time to enjoy the sunset. Weh Island is as beautiful as writer Aid Negoro describes in his classic "Melawat ke Barat" (Visiting the West) published in 1923. The Sabang administration preserves not only old trees but also two protected wildlife areas: Weh Island Marine Park (2,600ha) and Iboih recreation park (1,300ha). The Marine Park has coral gardens, while the Iboih park is located on the west coast of Weh Island and consists of beach and tropical lowland forests. Sabang also has a little volcano, a waterfall and a cave complex inhabited by birds, bats and snakes.


Sunrises in Sabang. I found out small monkeys playing in a corner at the large compound of the hotel. I think the training will be a refreshing experience for the participants due to the beauty and tranquillity in Aceh.


Sabang also provides giant trees. They were impressive. One of them is located on Jalan Perdagangan. Its trunk was almost as big as a small wooden hut. I estimated that its diameter was nearly two meters. In English, its name is Manila tamarind. In Latin, it is called Tamarindus indicus. In Sabang, people call it, "Pohon morai."

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Bikin Latihan Wartawan di Sabang?

Aku punya ide bikin pelatihan wartawan di Sabang. Aduh tempatnya indah sekali. Aku menaksir Hotel Sabang Hill. Ia terletak di puncak bukit, menghadap laut, udara bersih. Sabang juga mudah dicapai dari Banda Aceh. Kita cukup naik kapal cepat dari Ule Lheue sekitar 45 menit.

Tempat tenang. Udara bersih. Fasilitas bagus. Para peserta juga bisa diajak rekreasi ke Monumen Republik Indonesia Kilometer Nol di Ujong Batu. Ada juga Pantai Iboih yang indah. Jalan-jalan kota Sabang juga terpelihara. Pohon asam Cina besar-besar dengan diameter ada yang sampai enam meter.

Ini tempat ideal untuk melatih wartawan untuk peka terhadap isu nasionalisme. Ia juga dekat dengan Aceh. Jadi tunggu apa lagi?

Hendra dan Mustakim di Sabang

Ini cerita lucu. Kamis ini aku pergi ke Sabang. Tujuannya, melakukan survei terhadap kemungkinan bikin pelatihan wartawan di Hotel Sabang Hill. Naik kapal Tanjung Pinang dari Ule Lheue, Banda Aceh, selama 45 menit. Aku bawa uang Rp 500,000.

Lama menunggu. Kapal cepat ternyata bukan berangkat pukul 12:00 --seperti diberitahu oleh Helena Rea, yang minggu sebelumnya ke Sabang-- tapi pukul 15:00. Aku juga ditarik ongkos becak mesin Rp 40,000 dari Neusu ke Ule Lheue --padahal ongkosnya Rp 12,000.

Jadinya, ya makan siang, minum es dan macam-macam di pinggir pangkalan kapal. Uang berkurang juga Rp 35,000 untuk ongkos kapal.

Singkat kata, uang tersisa Rp 340,000 ketika sampai Hotel Sabang Hill.

Liza Hastika, manajer pemasaran hotel, bilang hotel tak terima kartu kredit atau ATM. Aku pun bayar cash. Semalam Rp 300,000. Ini hotel bagus. Aku suka pemandangannya.

"Apakah ada ATM di Jalan Perdagangan?" tanyaku pada Liza. Jalan ini adalah satu-satunya jalan pertokoan di Sabang.

Liza bilang ada. Cuma ATM BRI dengan jaringan Western Union serta BPD. Aku pun turun ke Jalan Perdagangan. Ternyata kedua kartu ATM milikku, BCA dan HSBC, tak terhubungkan dengan BPD. Sedang ATM BRI belum operasi.

Alhasil. Panik. Aku punya ATM dengan dana cukup. Kartu kredit juga beres. Tapi di kota kecil ini tiba-tiba aku merasa lemas. Wartawan termiskin di Sabang. Aku menenangkan diri dengan masuk ke sebuah rumah makan, pesan mie ayam serta teh dingin. Aku tak berani pesan macam-macam. Tapi aku makan agar rasa lapar tak mengganggu. Habisnya Rp 7,000. Cukup murah.

Aku kirim SMS kepada beberapa kenalan di Banda Aceh, tanya apakah ada teman yang bisa meminjami Rp 100,000. Helena bilang tak punya tapi bersedia datang ke Sabang naik kapal besok pagi. Nani Afrida tak menjawab. Murizal Hamzah mengusulkan agar aku hubungi Hendra Handyan, reporter Serambi Indonesia (Banda Aceh) di Sabang.

Maka aku pun cari rumah Hendra. Ternyata mudah. Ia tinggal di Jalan Perdagangan. Menahan malu. Aku minta tolong dipinjami Rp 100,000 agar besok bisa pulang ke Banda Aceh. Hendra baik sekali. Ia memberiku Rp 100,000. Kami mengobrol sebentar di rumahnya.

Hendra bahkan mengajak Mustakim Munthe, wartawan harian Analisa (Medan) di Sabang, mendatangi hotel. Kami mengobrol sepanjang malam. Ternyata Nani juga langsung menelepon Hendra, minta agar Hendra memberiku uang untuk jalan. Mustakim dan Hendra cerita suka duka jadi wartawan di kota terpencil ini.

Aku terharu dengan solidaritas sesama wartawan. Aku berjanji bila punya kesempatan, akan membawa wartawan-wartawan lain datang ke Sabang, entah ikut pelatihan atau reportase.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Indonesian Media Bias in Covering the Tsunami in Aceh

‘Indonesian journalists do not understand Aceh stories from the Acehnese perspective.’

By Andreas Harsono
Nieman Reports Vol. 59 No. 1/Spring 2005

One early morning in January, when Hotli Simandjuntak drew water from a well outside a house in Banda Aceh, he was complaining about some messages he had received from his Global TV editors in Jakarta. “They grumbled about having no official quotes on the beating of Farid Faqih. How important is Farid in Jakarta? But here his story is not that important,” he told me. “You could check with other Aceh journalists. His story is only important for the parachuting journalists from Jakarta.” We ended up trading jokes about the frenzied Jakarta editors, while carrying buckets of water to an adjoining bathroom.

Simandjuntak is a 30-year-old photojournalist, who used to freelance for the Agence France Presse. Like most stringers, his payment depends on how many of his photos or how much footage gets used by his bosses in Jakarta. He is humble, energetic and critical –and this combination makes him an ideal correspondent in the war-torn Aceh. I met him because the Dec. 26th tsunami destroyed his house and he moved to Nani Afrida’s house, which she made into a temporary shelter for visiting journalists, like me, who couldn’t find a hotel Banda Aceh. She is also a freelancer, who writes daily for The Jakarta Post.

Both Hotli and Nani told me that many Acehnese men and women were being harassed, scolded, beaten, and even killed by Indonesian soldiers. Such violence was frequent, they said, but stories about it go unpublished. As I heard this, I remembered Ryamizard Ryacudu, the Indonesian army chief, who openly admitted that in the month after the tsunami his men had killed 120 members of the Free Acheh Movement (Gerakan Acheh Merdeka, or GAM). GAM representatives said only 20 guerillas were killed and that the others who’d been killed were civilians. I tend to give more credit to the GAM version.

The Jakarta media continuously regard such beatings or killings as minor stories, but when an Indonesian army captain beat more well-known, Jakarta-based activist Farid Faqih, who allegedly stole some relief aid, this beating immediately became a headline. Kompas, the largest newspaper in Indonesia, carried news of the beating on its front page. “Indonesian journalists do not understand Aceh stories from the Acehnese perspective,” Hotli said, adding that as a Christian Batak from northern Sumatra he did not understand the perspective until he moved to Aceh four years ago.

Indonesia’s Vast Diversity

Indonesian media are overly narrow-minded when they are required to cover anything that relates to stubborn territories like Aceh, Papua or East Timor. Since the 1950s, Aceh has struggled to secede from Indonesia and Papua set up its own Free Papua Organization in the 1970s, even though Aceh voluntarily joined Indonesia. In 1999, East Timor won a United Nations-supervised referendum to become a new state. Today Indonesia comprises thousands of islands stretching over a distance from east to west that is approximately the same as from London to Baghdad. Its 210 million people speak more than 300 different languages and 88 percent of its population are Muslims, especially on the islands of Java and Sumatra, making Indonesia the largest Islamic country in the world.

Ethnic violence and separatist movements are escalating throughout the country. The main reasons are injustice, human rights abuses and the growing gap between the main island of Java and the other islands. Now questions are being raised whether Indonesia can survive as a nation-state. Critics contend that Indonesia is bound to disintegrate like Yugoslavia, given that its people’s only common history is their Dutch colonial past. The old strongman, General Suharto, managed to keep the country together by brutal means after he rose to power in 1965. But when he left power in May 1998, the institutions that he had built up also began to crumble.

Ironically, almost all of the current media companies were set up during the Suharto era. It is no wonder that I heard so many times these news organization’s top editors talking about the need to preserve the Unitarian State of the Republic of Indonesia (Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia, or NKRI). “We journalists should be red-and-white first and defend the NKRI,” declared Derek Manangka, the news director of RCTI, Indonesia’s largest private channel, when talking in a seminar about the Aceh coverage two years ago. (The red-and-white is the name of the Indonesian flag.)

Suryopratomo, the chief editor of Kompas, told me it is always better that those territories remain within Indonesia, even though he realizes that many human rights abuses by Indonesian soldiers take place in Aceh, Papua and others, “Still it is better to be united in this age of global competition,” he said. Such views are common, even if they don’t totally dominate the media of Palmerah, the Jakarta neighborhood where most of the leading newspapers and TV stations have their headquarters. Frequently, managers and editors at these news outlets put forward their nationalism – and in some cases also their Islamic interpretation – when confronted with ethnic or religious problems in their coverage.

The Politics of Tsunami Coverage

When the tsunami hit Aceh, reporters from these news organizations rushed to cover the suffering of their “Acehnese brothers and sisters.” Many also organized fund raising to help relief services. The tsunami raised a genuine solidarity among many Indonesians. Outside Indonesia, from Paris to Beijing, from Warsaw to Lima, many people also shared the suffering of the Acehnese, the people in Sri Lanka and other tsunami-hit countries.

But just one week after the tsunami, the Jakarta media bias against what they claimed to be “foreigners” and “Christianization” began to appear. They reported that activists of the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera, or PKS) put up posters in public spaces in Banda Aceh with this warning: “Don't let Acehnese orphans be taken away by Christians and their missionaries.” Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla announced that he would call upon the Indonesian Council of Ulemas to help decide on the adoption of Acehnese orphans. ”We will help the children to keep their faith. No adoption could be done without the ulemas' supervision,” Kalla announced.

Hidayat Nur Wahid, a PKS leader and currently the speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly, said the arrival of American, Australian as well as other “foreign troops” to help the tsunami victims should be controlled. “They should go out within a month,” Hidayat said, adding that his party is worried some foreign soldiers as well as the international aid workers might help to “Christianize” the predominantly Muslim Acehnese.

Jawa Pos Group, which controls more than 100 newspapers throughout Indonesia, quoted Kalla without providing an explanation for what prompted him and Muslim activists to focus on religion when the bulk of attention was on how to get emergency aid quickly to the tsunami survivors. Tempo magazine also published a cover story on the “Acehnese children” without providing readers with a single bit of evidence that Christians had taken the initiative to adopt the orphans. Though some American Evangelical groups had been working in Aceh to preach the Gospel, it was the U.S media that revealed their religious activities. Concerns such as these raised in various media accounts were soon brought up in a cabinet meeting led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Kalla, who attended the meeting, later told the media that “foreigners should get out of Aceh as soon as possible.” He added: “Three months are enough. The sooner (they leave), the better.” Indonesians, not foreign troops, according to Kalla, should be in charge of caring for those who lost their homes to the tsunami. When asked about long-term relief efforts, he said: “We don't need foreign troops.”

Such statements irritated the Acehnese, who organized a street rally in Jakarta in late January to demand that the United Nations, Americans and the British remain in Aceh and saying that Indonesia tries to keep foreigners out of Aceh in a bid to keep pacifying the Acehnese. “If the foreigners go out, the Indonesian corruptors will go in,” said Nasruddin Abubakar, a leader of the Center for Information and Referendum in Aceh.

Aceh is an oil-and-gas-rich province of Indonesia. Most of its natural resources, however, have been channeled into Jakarta. In 1976, the Aceh independence movement began when Hasan di Tiro, an Achehnese aristocrat with a doctorate from Columbia University and a past connection with the CIA, declared independence in Aceh. Di Tiro established a guerilla network, trained his soldiers in Libya, and maintains his position as walinegara, or head of state, from self-exile in Sweden. He wants to see the ancient Aceh sultanate revived. Di Tiro dislikes Indonesia; for him "Indonesia” and "Aceh" are a contradiction. He hates Indonesia’s political construction and even uses a different spelling ("Acheh" rather "Aceh") for his region. He described Indonesia as "a Javanese republic with a Greek pseudo-name.”

The Jawa Pos Group newspapers also did not mention a word about the street protest nor any statements made in Aceh about this situation. The Acehnese, indeed, want the international workers to remain to balance the presence of the Indonesian military, but statements, such as those by Hidayat and Kalla, were published widely and found resonance in many Indonesian circles opposed to the United States. At this time, U.S. forces are not anybody's heroes after the bad publicity they received from Iraq. Jakarta media carried the Abu Ghraib prison scandal pictures in full and this has only fuelled resentment against them. Many Indonesian Muslims see the American troops as staunchly anti-Islam.In mainstream news reports, the innuendo was palpable: Relief services which had come to Indonesia were motivated by religious considerations and nationalistic factors. Perhaps such worries were sparked because international relief organizations – whose workers are mostly Westerners and presumably Christians— were among the first to rush to Aceh. But this seems to present more of a case of paranoia. Nothing has happened to suggest that international relief workers are keen to take away Acehnese children, and neither have Indonesian churches demonstrated much altruism. The international troops visited Aceh to help the victims at a time when most Indonesian soldiers were themselves still trying to survive the tsunami.

Misunderstanding Nationalism

Benedict Anderson, the Cornell University political scientist who wrote “Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism,” believes that many Indonesian political elite misunderstand the concept of nationalism. Anderson is an old hand in Indonesia’s political analysis. He used to be the director of the Cornell Modern Indonesia Project and for more than 20 years edited the Indonesia multidisciplinary bi-annual journal.

In March 1999, a year after President Suharto stepped down from power, Anderson visited Indonesia and gave a speech to media leaders in Jakarta. In this speech, he said that nationalism is widely misunderstood to be something very old and inherited from “absolutely splendid ancestors.” Many misunderstand nationalism as arising “naturally” in the blood and flesh of each Indonesian citizen, he went on to say. In fact, nationalism is a new entity; in countries like the United States and France it is little more than two centuries old, and in Indonesia, which declared independence in 1945, it is in its infancy.

Another misunderstanding Anderson shared is that “nation” and “state” are, if not exactly identical, at least connected like a happy husband and wife in their relationship. In fact, the reality is often just the opposite. In this speech, Anderson also debunked the idea that only Westerners could colonize “native people” by reminding audience members that 90 percent of the government officials of the Netherlands Indies, the colonial ruler of this vast archipelago, were “natives.” In the 1950s, when Indonesia began to govern itself, these native colonial officials became the ruling elite.

During the Dutch colonial period, repression took place but was not as extreme as what was observed during Suharto’s regime (i.e. torture with electrical cords connected to activists’ genitals.) And such violence took place excessively in areas like Aceh, Papua, and East Timor. “I see too many Indonesians still inclined to think of Indonesia as an ‘inheritance,’ not as a challenge nor as a common project. Where one has inheritance, one has inheritors, and too often there are bitter quarrels among them as to who has ‘rights’ to the inheritance: sometimes to the point of great violence,” Anderson said. “The situation is today very serious and can only be remedied by a radical change in the mindset of the political leaders in Indonesia,” he wrote.

As Hotli and Nani’s comments attest, and Anderson’s observations show, nationalism in Indonesia is narrowly understood, especially among leading editors. A necessary change of mindset should start with journalists themselves as they work to rid themselves of their narrow-minded sense of nationalism and start to report on the Aceh and its people from a broader perspective. In some ways this will mean choosing to act first as journalists, and then as Indonesians. It is by sticking to my journalistic principles that I believe I serve my Indonesian audience better.##

Andreas Harsono, a 2000 Nieman Fellow, is the head of the Pantau Foundation, a media think tank in Jakarta.