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News Focus: Mass media in Indonesia, friend or enemy?

By Eliswan Azly

Journalist_A Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The role of the mass media in the process of communication is often seen by many as being both beneficial and dangerous. But as a whole, mass media actually only mediates between the interest of the government and that of the people.

If the interest of the government is catered to by the media in its reports to the people, it is seen as a friend. But at other times, when the mass media criticizes or attacks a government policy, the mass media concerned is regarded as an enemy.

The role of mass media as a social watchdog often makes those in the power elite allergic to the press, News Director Metro TV Station Suryopratomo said here on Tuesday.

He mentioned as an example the issue of the US invasion of Iraq in the past. At the beginning, the mass media in America supported George Bush`s policy to occupy Iraq on the ground that the Middle Eastern country was suspected to be developing weapons of mass destruction.

By after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was toppled, no weapons of mass destructive were found in Iraq. Then virtually all US mass media began to criticize Bush`s Iraq policy by naming him a “liar.”

“Having learned the role played by mass media in the United States, we dare say that mass media can be a friend under certain circumstance and as an enemy under other circumstance,” he said.

As a matter of fact, when the mass media tried to expose the Bush`s false pretext of weapons of mass destructive in Iraq, it was actually not a form of betrayal. Mass media in this case only wanted to clarify the real problem underlying the big blunder which the Bush government had made, he said.

Mass media should continue to run on the right track to create a peaceful world. In a democracy, mass media is regarded as the best system for the people to control the government.

In playing this role, mass media should be subject to a code of ethics and journalistic principles. Mass media must be able to disseminate right and true information to the public, he said, adding however, that the saying `publish and be dammed` was not the right journalistic principle.

In order to create a positive image, it`s not only the information that should be made good, but the implementation and the policy should also run properly in the interest of the people who have given their mandate to those in the power elite.

In the meantime, Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said that mass media in the era of democracy in Indonesia is often seen as a friend or partner because it conveys information from the government to the public (people).

Mass media plays a great role in the making of public opinion. It can facilitate the expansion of ideas, initiatives and opinions up to social reality, he said, adding consequently, the speedy progress of the progress on information technology and telecommunication, the role of mass media in making public opinion in the community become massive in the past few decades.

The minister said that mass media in Indonesia could function as an agent of a deterrent strategy to communicate the defense ministry to friends and enemies.
In a dialogue on the making of better image of defense, the minister said the media could function as a sharp sword with three dimensions.

Firstly, according to him, mass media should be able to communicate the ability of the state defense system in the right way, so that it would hopefully bring about a deterrent aspect to the enemy.

Secondly, mass media could also create self-confidence to the people that each national has the ability to defend the state.

Thirdly, mass media could also be expected to be a campaign agent to destroy the intention of the enemy to launch such ill-intended and clandestine activity indirectly by making use of various weaknesses of the state and nation.

Such information needed by the community as well as that to be delivered to the enemy would be useless. Such speed and accuracy of information in line with the wished target would not materialize without the existence of mass media as a means of communication, the minister said.

With the rapid advances of information and telecommunication technology, the role of the media in the making of public opinion is also big. Therefore, mass media can function as an agent to create a better image for defense and state.

Speaking about the crucial role of mass media, Prof Dr Tjipta Lesmana in his capacity as a military observer said that the influence of mass media was acknowledged by all parties and many experts on communications who are engaged in making a series of research eventually came to a conclusion that the media was powerful force.

Media could function as a public agenda setter which later affected government policy, he said adding that some times media could determine the direction of public opinion on a controversial issue.

The US invasion of Iraq could be made as an example whereas the American community`s public`s anger over their country`s military aggression against the Middle Eastern country would eventually lead to the creation of a bad image for America.

The Iraq issue eventually became a serious liability to the US Republican Party during the presidential election in 2009.

Therefore building a good image by means of the mass media is a great challenge for those in power, the defense ministry in particular and the state in general, Tjipta said, adding that all military personnel should contribute to this effort.

“This is certainly not easy. It will be long process,” he said, adding that another step the defense minister should take was holding more `heart-to-heart` dialogues between the military commanders and the leaders of mass media.

Inviting journalists to military barracks under all sorts of circumstances was deemed as the best way to broaden the knowledge and understanding of journalists in making their news reports.

The journalist should also learn and understand the anguish of military troops assigned in isolated and dangerous areas with inadequate facilities, Tjipta said.

Understanding nationalism and national resilience should be provided by the military to journalists engaged in the coverage of politics and security.

More important was the personnel in the defense ministry were also recommended to do their jobs professionally by avoiding involvement in corruption and other crimes that may tarnish the image of their institution, Tjipta said.  (*)

Posted : Wednesday, March 31, 2010 05:48 WIB | National


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