INDONESIA: Bogus journalists demand bonus

Hundreds of people claiming to be journalists have flooded offices in the North Sumatra capital city of Medan to demand Idul Fitri bonuses, many of them using coercion in their requests

The Jakarta Post
Friday, November 21, 2003

Apriadi Gunawan

Hundreds of people claiming to be journalists have flooded offices in the North Sumatra capital city of Medan to demand Idul Fitri bonuses, many of them using coercion in their requests.

Their presence caused concern among local officials who refused to go to work, to avoid the "reporters".

Sakhyan Asmara, who heads the sports and youth affairs department at the North Sumatra education office, said on Thursday it was not unusual for phony journalists to swarm government offices here ahead of the Idul Fitri, Christmas and New Year holidays.

This has tarnished the image of journalists as professionals, he said.

"Sometimes they force us to give them money or valuables," Sakhyan told The Jakarta Post in Medan.

On Wednesday, a man claiming to be a reporter with the Medan Sumatra newspaper demanded money from a local official.

The man followed the official into his office at the gubernatorial building compound.

Security guards were unsuccessful in their attempts to remove the"journalist" from the office and resorted to violence.

Hours after the incident, a group of people claiming to be journalists rallied at the governor's office in a show of support for the man.

On Thursday, only about 50 percent of officials went to work at the gubernatorial building, for fear that a similar incident would take place.

The bogus journalists have also caused concern to the North Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI).

Muchyan A.A., who chairs the executive board of PWI in the province, said genuine journalists would never ask for money while on the job.

"Based on our data, there are currently about 2,000 people claiming to be journalists across Medan. Some of them are hoodlums and commercial sex workers," he said.

He said the bogus journalists often claimed to work for Jakarta-based newspapers and were equipped with fake ID cards.

"Sometimes they blackmail bureaucrats who are facing legal cases. They could earn between Rp 10 million and Rp 40 million from those officials," Muchyan added.