Jurnalists Under Attack

Yesterday, a bad news came from Indonesia: a reporter found murdered in a hotel room, in a small town near Jakarta. Only last week we heard same bad news coming from the Philippine: journalists got shot to death. And this is the latest and most griming: vision of Alan Johnson, a BBC reporter being strapped with bombs in his body. It tells us even more that journalists are under attack every where in the world. They are under attack in Indonesia, the Philippine, Turkey, Ireland, Middle East countries, and even in more “civilized democracy” like the US, Britain, and the other countries in Europe.

For terrorist groups, kidnapping journalist is one way to negotiate their political goals. They use journalists as hostages and material for bargain. Many times, their acts and demands are ignored by the targeted institutions, and the hostages were murdered. For mafia groups (or triads) concerning on their business, killing journalist is an expression of hatred, revenge, or a “sign”. Veronica Guerin is an example of a journalist, whose life was taken by a mafia leader in Ireland, because she was too persistent in exposing the crimes conducted by the mafia group. The case of the reporter’s murder in the Philippine last week was also said to have link with a mafia group.

Government institution has another way to scare journalists: bring the case to the court, and send journalist to jail. That happened during President Megawati in Indonesia. Whenever she disliked the news about her, she made the court put the chief editor of the paper on trial, and send him to jail. And you think that would never happen in the US? Last year, Judith Miller, the star reporter of The New York Times, a supporter of Bush’ lies on the WMD (Weapon of Mass Destruction), was sent to jail as well.

This is an irony for Judith Miller. After being criticized by fellow journalists as too close to the Bush Administration, she eventually did the right thing as what the press ethics asks journalists to do: protecting the identity of sources. She took the consequence. In Australia, two reporters were also convicted of contempt of court last week, when they refused to disclose their sources. They were fined a huge amount of money. It creates a debate on the need for a regulation to protect whistle blower. For journalists, protecting sources is a matter of trust. If you betray the trust of your sources, you lose your credibility. In most cases, journalists preferred to be sentenced to jail or fined, compared to disclosing the identity of their source.

Journalism is indeed a life risking profession. Ersa Siregar, an RCTI reporter was killed during the GAM-Indonesian Military conflict in Aceh a few years ago. Daniel Pearl from Wall Street Journal was murdered Pakistan in February 2002, while investigating a story based on the story of shoe-bomber Richard Reid. He was kidnapped on his way to interview a fundamentalist leader. Anna Politkovskaya, a noted Russian journalist, was killed last October in her Moscow apartment. It was said to be related with her constant reports on human right abuses and other atrocities in Chechnya. In Turkey, also last year, a journalist was killed. It was said to be related with his reports on minority and the past history of Turkey, the suspected genocide of the Armenian population in particular.

Journalists risk their lives in conflicting or warring zones. In Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza, they do their job so that we know. It is rather shameful that we –after consuming these life-risking reports- do not do anything to stop the wars or the atrocities. Sometimes they were kidnapped, got shot and injured, or got killed. With this high risk they’re taking in the name of humanity in the world, there is very little appreciation to journalists. Those who are close to journalists always have vested interests. And those who don’t have interests ignore them.

Journalist is a profession similar to doctor, lawyer, and priest. They are allowed to protect any information concerning their clients. They also work without time limit: 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they must be available for the call.

The attack on journalists, for political or business purposes, shows no respect to this profession. In fact, journalists do not wish for respect. To be safe is the only thing they need to do their job well.

Sirikit Syah for The Brunei Times
June 27, 2007

Perihal LKM Media Watch
Mass media are watchdogs. But who watch the media? Let's do it together. Watch this very powerful entity, for better journalism, better Indonesia, better world. http://www.sirikitsyah.wordpress.com

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