INDONESIA: 'Serambi' back on newsstands again

After the Aceh daily newspaper's offices were destroyed, with many of its journalists still missing, paper is published for the first time since the tsunamis hit

The Jakarta Post
Saturday, January 2, 2005

After six days of absence due to the destruction of its office and disappearance of most of its employees, Aceh's only daily Serambi Indonesia hit the streets again on Sunday.

This time Serambi greets its readers not from its usual base in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, badly damaged from Sunday's tsunami, but from a new base in Lhokseumawe, North Aceh.

Serambi's office and printing house in downtown Banda Aceh were leveled to the ground, with nothing left intact, and many of its journalists are still missing, feared dead.

The daily, this time, is only 8 pages, half its normal size of 16 pages, due to shortages of manpower.

According to Serambi's Lhokseumawe branch head Ismail M. Syam, the eight-page newspaper is currently being run by 10 people, comprising six journalists and four production staff.

The 10 people are not all Serambi's employees from Lhokseumawe but rather employees from Kompas's Persda network, sent from other parts of the country, including from Makassar, Batam and Jakarta. Serambi is owned by the Kompas Gramedia Group.

"Now, the status of editors and reporters is the same. Everyone has to get into the field and file stories. Otherwise, we will not be able to fill the paper with local news," Ismail told The Jakarta Post here.

He explained that 60 percent of Serambi's 225 employees -- including journalists -- are still unaccounted for.

Serambi is not alone, though. Since Sunday, media companies outside Aceh were also frantically trying to locate their reporters and staff based in the province.

Serambi was established in the early 1990s by several senior Kompas journalists, including its editor-in-chief Syamsul Kahar, who survived the tragedy.

Following the disaster, a number of Serambi people, backed by its parent publication, prepared printing of the paper from a new base, Lhokseumawe.

Lhokseumawe was chosen because the newspaper has a five-unit printing house in the city.

The publisher, PT Aceh Media Grafika, said it is printing 10,000 copies per day -- compared to 100,000 before the disaster. All copies are being distributed free of charge, and it will remain free for the next week or so.

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You can see the website of the Indonesian-language daily, Serambi, at http://pendidikan.bangkapos.com/.