Officials should face media directly

The Jakarta Post
18 December 2007

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Officials of local administrations should address journalists directly instead of hiding behind press releases, in response to media questioning, in order to create more transparent government institutions, a former Jakarta mayor said Monday.

Sarimun Hadisaputra, who served as mayor of West Jakarta from 1998 to 2004, told a workshop that officials did not need to hide or try to avoid journalists.

"Many high ranking officials are afraid of saying something inappropriate or that journalists will discover their weaknesses, so they prefer to have public relations staff produce press releases," he said.

"As a result, most local government institutions lack transparency and were accused of obstructing public access to information."

The three-day workshop, themed "Public Relations For Local Government", which started Monday, was organized by the Association of Indonesian Municipalities (APEKSI).

The workshop's 21 participants are representatives from NGOs and public relations units of regencies and mayoralties in Aceh and surrounding cities.

Sarimun, who is also the executive director of APEKSI, said in his experience journalists usually preferred honest and open attitudes so the government should not be afraid to address the media directly.

"I tell the press frankly if I have no idea about any particular issue, and they can accept that. On the other hand, I try to be helpful to the press when I have any information they need," Sarimun said.

In the same forum, media expert Wimar Witoelar, who once served as a spokesperson for then president Abdurrahman Wahid, said he recognized the need to establish a professional relationship between governmental institutions and the press.

"There is a still relationship crisis between the government and the press.

"You can actually find this kind of problem in any country, including Australia and the United States," he said.

Witoelar said the main hurdle in creating harmonious relations was the unwillingness of state officials to acknowledge their faults that were publicized in the media.

"High ranking officials should not shut their eyes to their weaknesses highlighted by the media. The criticisms should be taken as positive stimulus to improve themselves," Wimar said.

Secretary general of the Alliance of Independent Journalists Abdul Manan said, however, it would be difficult to establish a professional relationship between government and the press as long as public relations officials persisted in trying to bribe the media.

Addressing the same forum, Manan, a journalist with Tempo magazine, said local governments should stop bribery (usually cash in envelopes distributed to journalists after events), as this tainted the professionalism of both government officers and the media.

Lindung Limbung, a PR officer of Binjai administration, said he frequently distributed money to journalists who attended council events with the expectation they would publish something.

"The amounts ranged from Rp 20,000 (about US) to Rp 50,000 given to around 100 local journalists," Limbung said, adding that the money was budgeted under the local governmental spending for "press empowerment". (lln)

Print article only


  1. From AG. Syam on 18 December 2007 13:26:13 WIB
    Bukankah disetiap media, sdh ada pengumuman bahwa: wartawan kami tidak menerima imbalan dalam bentuk apapun?
  2. From Toni Wahid on 18 December 2007 15:32:10 WIB
    I guess our government must start to see adversarial role of the media, is their nature. Apart from that, I don't think we have a healthy debate culture and trained in the schools like in US.
    As such I often found shallow answers from the officials when interviewed by prominent local media, let alone international media like CNN.
  3. From Dee on 18 December 2007 15:43:10 WIB
    ABS instead of WYSIWYG!
  4. From Butet on 20 December 2007 07:22:18 WIB
    Kalo yg diberitakan berita bagus, biasanya sih brani langsung ngomong. Kalo berita jelek sih, nggak ada yang maju, paling2 jubir aja.
  5. From febianto on 23 December 2007 07:42:14 WIB
    Setuju dgn Butet, karena itu yang harus terus dimajukan dan dikembangkan adalah nilai2 kejujuran bagi setiap pemimpin.

    Kejujuran harus dijadikan poin tertinggi bagi setiap orang (terutama para pemimpin) dan juga yang tidak kalah penting itu tentu saja cara penyampaiannya (soal ini bisa tanya sama profesional atau ahlinya saja).;))

    Soal wartawan yg suka nerima persekot,
    good journalists must fight against the bad ones in term of serving the news, the good ones should win this battle by winning readers-and-viewers heart.Thx.;)))
  6. From rijal_razaq on 24 December 2007 14:04:47 WIB
    it's very difficult. I seen that issue offer in every level of government, such as bupati, and camat..
  7. From Indra_UQ on 27 December 2007 07:18:26 WIB
    Mostly our government officials have no guts and are 'chicken'. They need to learn one thing " berjiwa besar" dalam arti mengakui kesalahan lebih baik daripada bersembunyi di balik kesalahan tersebut"

    "salam kenal"
  8. From Marsha on 27 December 2007 15:52:53 WIB
    Maybe government officials' unwillingness to face media stems from the belief that officials "shalt appear omnipotent and blameless"?
    But then, everyone's human and prone to mistakes... kalau salah, ngaku aja.

« Home