INDONESIA: Yogya declares war on bogus journalists

Yogyakarta journalists stage a rally against the rapid proliferation of bogus reporters

The Jakarta Post
Friday, July 9, 2004

By Slamet Susanto/Tarko Sudiarno

Concerned about the rapid proliferation of bogus reporters, dozens of Yogyakarta journalists staged a rally on Thursday in front of the Yogyakarta provincial police headquarters, denouncing the charlatans and declaring war on them.

The journalists represented print, radio and television media representing as well as various journalistic institutions like the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI), the Yogyakarta Indonesian Photographers Association (PFI) and several radio journalists' groups.

They addressed a crowd in front of the police station and carried hundreds of banners. Some of them read "Return Journalists' Dignity", "Take Stern Action against Bogus Reporters" and "Bogus Reporters are Harming Journalists' Image."

Head of the Yogyakarta AJI, Masduki, proclaimed that the presence of bogus journalists was out of control. They extorted news sources most of the time and often used the names of real reporters from established media groups, he said.

"We demand that the police take stern action against the impostors because they were extorting people, which is clearly a crime," said Masduki.

A representative of the Yogyakarta PFI, Bagus Kurniawan, added that the phenomenon not only occurred in Yogyakarta but throughout the country. As a result, the image of journalists was being further tarnished. The reputation of the media here has become very negative and almost all are now called "envelope journalists", he said, in reference to the envelopes full of bribe money that is often exchanged for a positive story on a corrupt official.

"We, Yogyakarta journalists, starting this month have agreed to beat the drums of war against bogus journalists and hopefully, colleagues from other cities will follow suit to make journalism clean and free from the cash envelopes," said Bagus.

The bogus journalists often arrive at someone's office in a group and intimidate a source, usually demanding money in exchange for not reporting on an allegation of corruption. They are only in pursuit of cash envelopes, which harms the image of all members of the press.

Yogyakarta Police Chief Brig. Gen. Sudirman who was present at the rally said that the police had actually made an effort by issuing membership cards to genuine reporters.

"But, we've agreed to do even more. Journalists and the government, in this case the police, are committed to changing this situation. With the support of you, our colleagues, we will take stern action against bogus journalists," the police chief told the crowd of journalists.

Sudirman then proceeded to burn five envelopes (without the money inside) to symbolically initiate the war on bogus journalists. The protesters also officially reported a crime committed by a bogus reporter named Bani, who claimed he worked for Republika newspaper to extort another person.

Before dispersing, the journalists together declared and requested that accredited journalists throughout the country not to forge relationships with bogus reporters and appealed to anyone approached by such phonies to ignore them.