Saturday, 23 May 2009

Learning More about Citizen Journalism

Hectic schedule made me a bit frustrated on providing time to write. I've still contributed some pictures but yet some other plans are kept in my mind...

I'm happy that a journalist based media worker had given me some questions on two articles I wrote for wikimu. She is doing her research for her master degree in journalism and was interested in analyzing those two articles. I'm happy because that way I can see which type of writing that took the interest of readers. Actually it would be nice to be able to know which type of article is interesting for common readers, and which one is interesting for those journalists. She promised me to send the soft copy of her thesis. At least I can see how interactive the article for her, and how did she grab my answers for her questions.

I've been watching how the media reacted to citizen journalism. I've also experienced how some media tried to use citizen journalism but only for their own sake. I'm not going to say which media are they. From the positive token, I think the Jakarta Post is an example from the media who used citizen journalism as a good interactive communication with its readers. An example of their balance reporting on opinion can also be seen in the articles about the annual memory of May Riot. After publishing an opinion writing that the writers have not forgotten it, which I paste in my previous posting, it was also published another opinion in a routine column of its Sunday edition.
Our national celebration of amnesia

Sun, 05/17/2009 1:36 PM | On the Town

As a scrawny high school kid in my red-checkered uniform with my black solidarity arm-band, I witnessed history in 1998. The euphoria of people-power was thick in the air of Jakarta.

We demanded reform, and we demanded the smiling tyrant be toppled from his 32-year reign. May 12 was a day of chaos. The streets of Jakarta were a battle ground. People screamed and threw rocks, while others looted everything from television sets to mattresses' and shampoo.

As the protest and mayhem escalated, the demand for Soeharto to step down reign was finally met. He announced his resignation with a big grin. The look was insulting: it was as though he believed he had done nothing wrong.

The old man proclaimed "ora pate'an", a Javanese phrase which means "nothing to lose" (whether he was president or not). Millions cheered in victory, but the damage was already done.

Contrary to Soeharto's claims, much was lost. Lives were lost. Buildings and businesses were destroyed. And my sisters were never the same after being violently raped.

Following the turmoil, blame games and cover-ups were thrown about on our television screens. The words "provocateurs" and "anarchy" suddenly became popular. Claims the mass action was provoked by a treacherous group connected to military generals was the word on the street.

Change, you ask? Reform became just another word in our history books. Certain parties reaped benefits from the revolution, while the majority of Indonesians gained nothing.

2009; eleven years later, some of the student activists who demanded reform have now joined the comfortable ranks of government, working for the very things they fought against in 1998.

The murders of university students during the protests remain unsolved to this day. Eleven years is a long time to wait for justice. However, it is not long enough for us, the generation that experienced it, to forget.

We were there. Why have we forgotten? Why have we ignored it, as if it never happened? Was it all in vain?

Last August, in celebration of Independence Day, a television station aired a 30 second bumper about national heroes. Along with Tjoet Njak Dien, Diponegoro, and those who fought against the colonialists for independence, was one man who made my heart stop: General Soeharto. Eleven years ago, he was a villain, a mass murderer, a man responsible for chaos. Now he is officially a TV hero. Men who a few years ago were implicated in the death and disappearances of students are now candidates in the presidential race, and they have a significant number of supporters.

Have we forgotten, or have we been conditioned to forget?

I have contacted several people involved in the 1998 riots and asked them to recall the events.

My then boyfriend was a high school student back in 1998. He wasn't an activist, nor was he directly involved in the action. But the atmosphere of the moment encouraged him to get involved in the euphoria.

"My school mates and I went to the University of Indonesia to join in the action, but we weren't taken seriously by the students. On our way back, we passed through an area where we saw a mass of people, got off the bus and joined in," he recalled.

Now he is a business executive. He hardly ever thinks about 1998 and is cynical of terms like "change" and "revolution".

"I think people who experienced 1998 have a reason to be apathetic. We saw that nothing really changed after the reform. Now we just do what we think is best for ourselves. The government will always remain the way it is," he said.

Lisa was also affected by the events of eleven years ago. She had her home looted by bunch of strange men. They broke in and accused her of hiding people in her house that was located near a big university.

"They kept asking *Where are you hiding them?' but I had no idea what they were talking about. We had an young son and we didn't want to fight back."

Now the Indonesian Idol fanatic claims to be disgusted by anything political. "Whenever there is political news or anything confronting on TV, I just change the channel. I don't give a shit. I just want to be a good wife and mother. As long as my family's happy, I'm happy." she said.

The "magic box" and its mind-numbing programs have proven to be an effective yet subtle lobotomizing tool. But can we blame apathy on the media alone? Every year, newspapers print stories related to the events of May 1998. Televisions air bumpers with dramatic musical scores portraying the events. As long as things remain the same, why should we expect people to care? Here in Jakarta, aside from a few political activists demanding justice for murder and rape victims, it is business as usual. Just yesterday, I served a coffee and a croissant to my regular customer, Rika, a senior student at Trisakti - the university where four students were shot dead on May 12, 1998. I asked her if her and her friends were commemorating the tragedy. "Maybe..I don't know. That's way before my time," she said hesitantly.

Oh well, can you really blame them for their apathy? For those of us who still care, families of the victims demanding justice for their losses - people who are still struggling for change you have my respect and support.

Keep loving and keep fighting.

- Kartika Jahja

That is what I do like from a media, the objectivity of seeing one topic. Both articles are against public amnesia, but the way it was presented were different. The second article was also including how the public amnesia could be developed.

Actually these other way of presenting stories made me thinking back into the case of our military action in East Timor and the truth that was seeking by the family of the Australian journalists. I've made a note as a citizen journalist before, and I think we can learn a lot of things if media keep their objectivity open to the public, and also hearing and digging into public opinions as well. And public opinion is actually the content of citizen journalism outlets.

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