Journalists in Indonesia told to be messengers of peace

Reporters should avoid writing news that will worsen conflicts, bishops' conference official says
Journalists in Indonesia told to be messengers of peace

Devotees of Indonesia's minority Ahmadi Muslim community pray at the al-Hidayah mosque in Jakarta. Indonesian Ahmadis are no strangers to persecution, with attacks and discrimination rife. (Photo by AFP)

Good journalists must be able to be messengers of peace by writing comprehensive and proportional news, rather than news which will worsen conflicts, according to a Catholic priest.

"For journalists, including Catholic ones, the most important thing is to be messengers of peace. They must be able to get the correct information from credible sources so that the news they write is based on facts," Father Kamilus Pantus, Executive Secretary of the Commission for Social Communications of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference, told ucanews.com on June 27.

"Journalists must also spread the values of truth. Let’s say they include expressions or statements in their news that may boost a feeling of love of peace among society. If such expressions or statements become part of their work, I believe mass media will help create good public opinion," he said.

On the other hand, he cautioned journalists against making situations of conflict worse.

"They must question the interpretation of certain situations, such as religious-based conflicts. This is because some audience members fail to be critical, or they just read or watch the news. It has an effect on public opinion," he added.

He called on journalists "to keep the news comprehensive and impartial."

Father Pantus' remarks were in response to a recent statement by the Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent Journalists stressing peace journalism.

In Jakarta, at a discussion held on June 25 by the Indonesian Ahmadiyya Community (popularly known as JAI), Secretary-General of the Alliance of Independent Journalists Arfi Bambani Amri lamented that many journalists fail to promote peace journalism.

"The current journalistic code of ethics is actually what is needed by peace journalism. But many journalists might not read the code of ethics thoroughly," he said.

According to the code of ethics, journalists should write the news fairly, based on facts and without any intention to cause harm.

Indeed, JAI leader Maulana Abdul Basit claimed that many journalists failed to deliver the facts.

"It seems like we are blamed for conflicts related to Ahmadiyya," he said, mentioning as an example the recent case in Gemuh village of Kendal district, Central Java province.

On May 23, unidentified people destroyed JAI’s Al Kautsar mosque. Local residents had opposed the presence of the mosque since it was established in 2003.

JAI spokesman, Yendra Budiana, said it was their wish that journalists would not focus on Ahmadiyya followers’ faith in their reporting of the incident.

"If journalists can focus on the real situation, they won’t focus on religious belief," he said.

Basit, meanwhile, is hopeful. "If the quality of journalism is improved, it will improve education in society."

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