Journo association blasts newspapers over poll coverage

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A journalists association has accused the print media of violating the traditional professional standards of impartiality and objectivity in their coverage of the gubernatorial election.

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) working together with the Tifa Foundation monitored the content of 10 news dailies from June 12-Aug. 4.

The dailies are Indo Pos, Kompas, Pos Kota, Warta Kota, Media Indonesia, The Jakarta Post, Suara Pembaruan,

Koran Tempo, Rakyat Merdeka and Republika.

"Our research focused on content analysis to measure the impartiality of a publication," AJI research coordinator Ignatius Haryanto said Monday.

The results showed some newspapers did not provide fair and balanced reporting and endorsed or outrightly opposed a particular candidate.

Ignatius said the alliance hoped the media would use the research to enforce balance and to report on the election fairly.

Warta Kota, for instance, was said to be partial in its July 31 story about people from neighboring cities traveling to Jakarta for the purposes of voting in the election.

According to the research, the story did not cover both sides as it only quoted one source.

Tatang Suherman, the editor of the gubernatorial election pages of Warta Kota, said time and space constraints had prevented all comments from appearing.

"The story was edited at the production desk and part of it was cut due to space limitations, but we managed to publish the confirmation from the other party in the next edition," he said.

Effendy Ghazali, a communications expert at the University of Indonesia, agreed the media must be given feedback so it could pick up its standards.

Effendy, one of the initiators of TV political parody News Dot Com, said he could understand why newspapers did not always report on the election in an even-handed manner.

"As long as they are able to show their articles are based on fact, it is all right for a newspaper to take sides. The rest is for the readers to decide."

The AJI was set up in 1994 by young journalists who were dissatisfied with the way in which the government-sanctioned Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI) responded to the closure of three publications -- Tempo, Detik and Editor -- by the government at that time.
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