Thu, 12 Feb 2004

Crooked journos slammed

Nana Rukmana, The Jakarta Post, Cirebon, West Java

Dozens of media representatives, students and activists held a rally against crooked journalists in Cirebon on Wednesday.

Held amid a nationwide campaign against crooked politicians, the rally was organized by journalist groups, students and other non-governmental organizations.

Dahono Fitrianto, the coordinator of the Cirebon Journalist Discussion Forum, said the rally was staged to remind the news media it had to stay independent in the upcoming elections.

"Journalists must stay neutral and they must be able to position themselves as representatives of the public," said Dahono, a journalist at Kompas daily.

The rally was timely as the image of journalists had been tarnished, he said.

"Envelope journalists", bogus freelancers with no regard for the truth, who were willing to write up any angle for a price, were widespread in the country, he said.

"There are many journalists who will write stories in line with certain interests in order to get financial compensation. This will cost the public dearly."

If there were crooked politicians, then these people were crooked journalists, Dahono said.

Cirebon Journalist Solidarity movement member Dedy Musashi said the rally was held to create balanced reporting in the elections.

"During the elections, there will be many politicians trying to manipulate journalists. We should be aware of this and take steps to avoid it," said Dedy, a journalist with the Republika daily.

SCTV journalist Ridwan Pamungkas called on public to help control the attitude of crooked journalists.

Many employed journalists and freelancers visited government offices and asked for money from government officials, he said.

He urged officials not to comply with their requests and report them to journalist organizations. In Cirebon alone there were about 400 people who listed themselves as journalists, he said.

Suryana, the speaker of the Cirebon Council, supported the rally, saying it could help improve the media's credibility with the public.