NU bans gossip news, asks people to skip
Indra Harsaputra and Hera Diani, The Jakarta Post
, Surabaya, Jakarta
The country's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), began deliberating a fatwa Saturday against watching gossip shows.
Convening for a three-day national conference in Surabaya, NU ulema said Saturday the edict would prohibit Muslims from broadcasting, publishing and watching infotainment news.
The religious ruling will be issued Sunday, when the meeting ends, NU leader Said Agil Siradj told The Jakarta Post
on the sidelines of the conference.
After weighing up different interpretations of Muslim tradition none of the clerics in attendance are opposed to the edict, he said.
Over the past few years, a number of television stations in Jakarta have turned gossip into a no-holds-barred enterprise. More than 40 gossip shows are broadcast every week by a total of 11 stations.
Critics say the shows are dull, sexist and uninformative.
"This fatwa will be issued because ulema are concerned gossip shows will destroy young people and because the Koran strictly forbids spreading gossip," Agil said.
Airing another person's dirty laundry in public is against Islam, he said.
"For example, publicly humiliating a polygamous official is haram (forbidden under Islam) because it (polygamy) is part of their private life."
Agil said the NU did not have the authority to order TV stations to stop producing gossip shows, "because we are not the executor in the broadcasting and media sector".
He said the fatwa would be slapped on broadcasting celebrity gossip, not news, like crime or corruption reports.
Journalists and other people involved in the production of gossip shows are sinners, he said, as are the "gossip addicts" who lap up juicy celebrity tidbits without bearing in mind the humiliation they cause.
Agil urged Muslims to switch off gossip shows or, at the very least, change the channel.
Television stations are waiting for the fatwa to be issued before they respond.
"We are going to examine the edict thoroughly and seriously, to find out which part is considered haram," said Gufron Sakaril, the public relations manager of private TV station Indosiar.
He said that gossip shows, locally known as "infotainment", were the products of entertainment journalism.
"Gossip shows also refer to the principles of journalism."
Budi Darmawan, SCTV's senior public relations manager, said the NU's plan to ban celebrity news was legitimate in a democracy.
"We'll wait and see what the edict is like. In our defense, gossip shows always stick to journalistic principles by covering both sides of the story and getting confirmation."
Gossip, or entertainment news, Budi said, was the same everywhere in the world, in that it was not always positive.
He said the common perception that gossip shows got high ratings was not true as local soap operas scored higher.
The average rating for gossip shows is between one to four, while for local soaps it's eight to 12, Budi said.