Wed, 19 Mar 2003

RI journalists go to Middle East

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A number of Indonesian journalists have been sent to the Middle East to obtain first-hand information on the standoff between Iraq and the United States, with their employers saying the decision was taken to produce more balanced reporting on the crisis.

Of the media interviewed by The Jakarta Post on Tuesday, only Metro TV private channel which will have access to the battlefront if war does break out on Thursday.

Metro TV news producer Elman Saragih said a reporter and a cameraman from the TV station had arrived in Baghdad to provide Indonesian people with live coverage of the war in Iraq.

"We will show how an arrogant state like the U.S. attacks Iraq. The war will certainly bring misery to Iraqi people," Elman said.

With war looming, leading morning daily Kompas has placed a correspondent in Kuwait City, who has been sending news on the course of the Iraq crisis.

While Kompas is planning to send another reporter to the Middle East, Surabaya-based daily Jawa Pos and Bandung-based daily Pikiran Rakyat have sent reporters to Amman.

James Luhulima, Kompas foreign editor, said his office had assigned reporters to the Middle East to find a different news angle to that offered by newswire services.

"We all know that almost all the information comes from Western countries," James said.

Anto Purwanto, a reporter with Jawa Pos daily, who is now in Amman, said his office was interested in the lives of people in Jordan and other countries in the face of war in neighboring Iraq.

"I will observe the situation and try to move as close as possible to Iraq," Anto told the Post from Amman.

Fellow journalist Budhiana, from Pikiran Rakyat daily, has also been in Amman to monitor developments in Baghdad.

On the security of their reporters, the media shared a similar policy of giving their reporters the discretion to decide whatever steps were needed in the field.

James said that there was no specific order from Kompas to its reporters in a conflict area like Iraq. "All reporters must make their own calculations. They should look after themselves," he added.

Anto, who has been in Amman for nearly two months, said he had no worries about security in Jordan, which is located between Iraq and Israel.

"God willing, I am safe here. If the war expands and involves Israel, I will seek refuge at the Indonesian Embassy here," said Anto, who had no idea about the readiness of the embassy for evacuation.

Anto said an estimated 6,000 Indonesian migrants were working in Jordan. Many others were making a living in Kuwait and in other Middle East countries.

He added that the embassies of Malaysia and Australia in Amman had prepared Hercules aircraft to evacuate their respective citizens, should war break out in Iraq.

Budhiana, meanwhile, said he was in daily contact with the office in Bandung, West Java, to let them know how he was.

Similar to Anto, Budhiana said his decision to stay in Amman was because of the city's security and access to information. "Numerous reporters from around the world are monitoring progress on the Iraq crisis from here. I hope I am safe here," Budhiana added.

Both Anto and Budhiana said they had to develop their own ideas and stories, which would focus on the readiness of the Indonesian Embassy in evacuating and protecting its citizens.