Risking Independency?

by Reney Lendy Mosal

Media is powerful. It needs no weapon, guns, or bamboo sticks to make, or to keep its power. Media itself has the power. It delivers idea to a massive number of people, at the same time. It shapes our perception of reality. Yes, indeed, it reports the fact to the people. But it has the power to choose what part of the fact, and how it reported. It has the power to choose, what should be reported, and what shouldn’t. Mass media, has the privilege of being a gatekeeper of information, and thus, controls public opinion. Bernard Cohen once said, “the press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about”. In other words, press maybe have less control in affecting people’s interest to an issue, but it has strong control in affecting how an issue being perceived. For instance, press has less control to public attention; whether to the jubilation of EURO 2008, the tension of conflict related to FPI, or Obama’s strategy in the presidential campaign. But, it able to constructs people’s opinion on those issues.

This kind of power can be used by media-owners regarding KPU’s decision to remove penalty to printed media that published content that can be defined as campaign during the election period. KPU’s decision is contrary to the existing regulation in UU 10/2008. Article 99 detailed what penalty should press’ get if not abide the regulation stated in Article 97 UU 10/2008. In Article 97 stated “Printed media give a just and fair time period and pages to publish news, interview and commercial related to the campaign of the election participants”. By removing the entire penalty, we are letting media to be used.

Actually, by making a clear regulation, KPU guarantee printed media to be fair in giving their spots to various political party, or candidate. This regulation secure media independency from being intervened by media owners. Ideally, newsroom should be free from any conflict of interest, especially from being used as a tool for politicians to gain support from people..

But the decision to remove the entire penalty to printed media, risks media independency just right in time: when this nation held the election. During campaign period, media became a strategic tool for politician, especially those who at the same time, owns a media. Newsroom became an object to be intervened by media owner. Objectivity of the media owner is, however, difficult to maintained, because of the high pressure of political interests.

Maybe one of the considerations is that constitution about election ( UU 10/2008 ) should not against constitution about press. In the constitution about press, stated clearly that there are no more press’ confiscation, meanwhile, in UU 10/2008, one of the penalty is the confiscation. In this case, I agree that the law about election should not against the law of the press (lex specialis). But in other hand, I don’t agree if KPU remove the entire penalty in Article 99 of UU 10/2008. This is, once more, risks media independency. We still need penalty to secure balanced publication, especially during presidential campaign period. Removal of confiscation penalty is acceptable, but removal the entire penalty is not acceptable.

Finally, allow me as the media consumer in Indonesia raise the question: why do KPU decide to remove penalty to printed media that published content that can be defined as campaign during the election period?. What moral, ethic, or law arguments that KPU can give? Did I miss something? Hopefully.

I hope I do miss something. I hope what I miss is a reason of “prima faci”. Prima faci is : a principle of moral and ethic is valid until there’s no greater moral-ethic arguments that contrary to that. In a simple words prima faci means, “for greater good”. I this case, I really hope that KPU’s decision is based on “for greater good”. Let’s think that there may be something better that we all gain by allowing media to be used as a tool for media barons in Indonesia.

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