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AJI elects new president

National News - November 28, 2005

The Jakarta Post, Cipanas, West Java

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) elected Heru Hendratmoko of Radio 68H late on Saturday as its new president, replacing Eddy Suprapto of Kontan business weekly.

AJI was set up in 1994, triggered by the closure of Detik, Tempo and Editor news publications.

The new secretary-general elected along with Heru for the next three years is Abdul Manan, also of Tempo. Voters represented 684 members from 21 AJI chapters across the country.

Heru, a cofounder of AJI, pledged that he would strive for "democratic press management" apart from continuing efforts to improve journalists' professionalism and welfare.

A survey commissioned by AJI and released on Friday, reported that from 400 journalists interviewed in 17 cities, 65 percent received a monthly income in the range of Rp 600,000 to Rp 1.8 million. While 48.3 percent said wages should be the main agenda of unions, 66.8 percent said their companies did not have unions. Reporters have cited difficulties in organizing.

Regarding efforts to increase bargaining power journalists were asked whether ownership in collective shares was necessary, to which 89 percent replied in the affirmative. The survey also revealed that 54.8 percent of journalists said unions should strive to have them represented on the managements.

The congress issued a resolution on Sunday saying that taking "envelopes" (the local term for bribes for journalists) should be subject to the anticorruption law, following a heated debate given the gray area of what constitutes "envelopes".

The above survey revealed that while 85.5 percent of respondents said receiving cash from sources constituted a bribe, only 65 percent said the same for gifts of valuable items like tape recorders and mobile phones.

Sociologist Emmanuel Subangun, among speakers invited on Friday, cited "amazing" findings in the survey such as contradictions regarding the issue of bribes and the level of satisfaction over earnings. Only 7.3 percent of respondents said their earnings were "very low" while he said the findings "confirms that journalists, many with a university education, occupy the lowest rank of society, earning only slightly above the current Jakarta minimum monthly wage of Rp 820,000."

He said this picture of journalists may reflect one of the nation's problems regarding underemployment, a condition where earnings do not match qualifications and where performance is hampered by a "mismatch" between education and occupation.

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