By: Sahrudin – firstname.lastname@example.org
WHERE on earth can one find unbiased information? Don’t you deserve the fundamental right of honest reporting? So, where can people find objective media coverage?
There are only three answers: difficult, difficult, and difficult.
This is my lament on journalism in Indonesia. From Sabang Municipality, the country’s most western point to Merauke Regency, the easternmost point; from Miangas, Indonesia’s northernmost island to Rote, the southernmost one; journalists just probably have the same problems.
What are they?
Pressures? Of course not. Now everyone in the country can write and speak freely. Even making fun of the President has become a more common thing.
So what happen with the journalists?
I answer the question with a question. Will 500,000 IDR (equals 44 USD) per month salary enough to survive and save money?
I tell you a fact of life in Indonesia’s news business: some reporters of local mass media paid only 500,000 IDR and above (700,000; 900,000; 1,000,000; 1,500,000), and many others are even earning less than that amount.
Journalists working at big papers in major media markets, of course, earn more and take home fatter paycheck than those at smaller papers in smaller markets.
But I am not talking about a few best-paid journalists working at national level mass media, whose average monthly salary are millions of Rupiahs.
I am now writing about many, many, many “unlucky” journalists, in order to survive, to receive money from conference hosts or governmental agencies for content, or any media coverage at all.
We, sadly, must recognize it’s called corruption. We have absolutely no right over the money.
But many journalists, usually working at local mass media, took the money, often mislabeled as a “transportation cost” or a “credit/balance expense” from conference hosts or governmental offices.
Biased news coverage then becomes unavoidable impact may occur. Remember that most citizens have no opportunity to see government first hand. They form their opinions based on what they read and what they see and how they interpret the news.
These types of journalists, who often receive such a “transport expense”, can still be divided into two categories: really low-paid journalists, and, the so-called “enough is never enough” journalists.
The definition of the first category is fairly clear. For a full time journalist, it is so hard to live in Indonesia only with 1,000,000 IDR salary per month, let alone 500,000 IDR.
How can that amount of money cover daily expenses, from working with such a high mobility that needs transport cost, to credit/balance expense and PC maintenance cost? We are, unfortunately, still not talking about basic household needs.
How do a low-paying full time reporter find time for moonlighting, while at the same time, his/her editor obliges him/her to cover and write three to four news per day?
The second category, “enough is never enough” journalists, is also clear. Earning millions of Rupiahs salary per month, money just still slip through their fingers.
They have fallen into a habit of letting money control them rather than the other way around. In this case, the problem lies in their moral integrity and responsibility.
All these long time issues should be answered, especially by media companies.
Instead, there should be continued public pressure on the companies still insist to pay their journalists below standard.
And if necessary, all Indonesian journalists strike to show solidarity for their peers, the low-wage journalists.***
*Coming up next: How Politicians and Tycoons Tarnish Indonesia’s Journalism?