Skip to main content

Breaking the Code

The attorney general asks journalists who have interviewed fugitive corruptors to report their interviews.

ONE fugitive, Dharmono K. Lawi, does not refuse interviews. Former Speaker of the Banten Regional House of Representatives was not only interviewed by journalists, but he also appeared on a television program. Through the mass media, Lawi has voiced his protest. He felt that the legal institutions had treated him unfairly, so he decided to flee.

Lawi’s appearance in front of the press annoyed Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh. “People now say that if journalists are able to meet the fugitive. Why can’t we?” he said. For that reason, Saleh has asked the journalists who met Lawi to give an account of their meeting to the prosecutor’s office. “They should help us,” he added.

According to Saleh, these corruptors have escaped national justice. Journalists have the same civic responsibilities as the rest of the population. “It is true that journalists have a code of ethics, but they also have civic duties like ordinary citizens,” said Saleh.

As the legal base for his statement, Saleh pointed to the Regulations on the Elimination of Corruption. He stated that according to chapter 13 of the regulations, every citizen, including journalists, must aid the government in resolving a corruption case by giving the required information. “The only exception in this regulation is for priests,” he said.

Journalists cannot easily abide by this regulation. “We are indebted by the trust we have earned from our sources and the public,” said ANTV general manager of current affairs, Ivan Haris. According to Haris, the journalist’s code of ethics maintains that the journalist must keep the source’s identity secret if he/she asks for it. “Furthermore, journalists are not an intelligence unit,” added Haris. The prosecution called Haris after Lawi’s performance in the ANTV Wanted program.

A Press Council member, Leo Batubara, supported Haris’s statement. According to him, it is impossible for a journalist to give away his/her source to the prosecution, including corruptors. “A reporter’s duty is to fulfill the needs of the public, not the prosecution,” said Batubara. “If they give away their sources, the public won’t trust them anymore and they will be considered a police agent,” he added.

Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, a senior journalist who was also the former senior editor of Indonesia Raya newspaper, emphasized that the public’s trust is fundamental to a journalist. To breach this principle is to break the code of ethics. “Which is as bad as reporting false news,” he said. According to Astraatmadja, breaking the code of ethics will damage not only the journalist’s credibility, but also that of the mass media and the press in Indonesia.

He hopes that the journalists will follow in the steps of the late H.B. Jassin who kept his source’s identity a secret and went to jail for it. Jassin refused to reveal the identity of Ki Panjikusmin who wrote a short story titled ‘The Sky is Getting Darker.’ The account was published in Sastra magazine in 1968 and was intended to humiliate Muslims. Jassin was brought to trial and sentenced to one year in jail. To this day, nobody knows who Ki Panjikusmin is.

Astraatmadja then gave another example. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, two Washington Post journalists, kept secret the identity of their source for 35 years. Mark Felt, had supplied them with information on the Watergate scandal involving President Nixon, and surrendered his own identity to the public after more than 30 years. “It is very important for journalists to keep the public’s trust or they will lose their credibility,” he said.

A penal law expert from the Law Faculty of the University of Indonesia, Rudi Satryo Mukantardjo, stated that it is acceptable if the attorney general’s statement was only a request. “Because journalists have a code of ethics which forbids them from giving away the identity of those sources who wish to remain anonymous,” he said. According to Mukantardjo, a journalist is usually willing to
suffer sanctions in honor of this code.

Saleh realizes that he is playing a losing game against the code. He understands the journalists and their code of ethics. “But, please, let us talk about it,” he said.

Abdul Manan, Maria Hasugian

Tempo Magazine, No. 14/VII/Dec 05 - 12, 2006

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Tegang dan Depresi karena Sutet

Tim PPLH Unair membuktikan, SUTET berbahaya bagi kesehatan manusia. Dampaknya bervariasi: dari pusing kepala sampai gangguan syaraf.

HIDUP di bawah jaringan listrik tegangan tinggi ternyata tak cuma menegangkan. Anda juga berpotensi mengalami gangguan syaraf. Begitulah kesimpulan penelitian mutakhir yang digelar tim Pusat Penelitian Lingkungan Hidup (PPLH) Universitas Airlangga (Unair). Laporan yang dirilis akhir bulan lalu di Surabaya menghidupkan kembali kontroversi tentang dampak radiasi elektromagnet dari jaringan itu atas kesehatan manusia. Dan, menjadi "senjata" baru bagi warga Desa Singosari yang memperkarakan Perusahaan Umum Listrik Negara (PLN) ke pengadilan, karena kawasan permukiman mereka dialiri jaringan tersebut.

Tim yang diketuai Direktur PPLH Dr. Fuad Amsyari melakukan penelitian di Desa Singosari, Kecamatan Kebomas, Gresik, Jawa Timur (Ja-Tim). Warga desa itu, sejak tahun 1989 lalu, telah memprotes dan memperkarakan kehadiran jaringan transmisi Saluran Udara…

Yang "Kurang Pas" di Surabaya Post

Surabaya Post berhenti terbit akibat sengketa perburuhan. Toety Azis mengadukan lima karyawannya ke polisi, tetapi ada prospek damai.

BAGI masyarakat Surabaya, membaca Surabaya Post mungkin seperti kebiasaan minum kopi. Terasa ada yang "kurang pas" ketika koran sore satu-satunya di Surabaya itu tidak terbit lagi, sesudah "panutan" di edisi terakhir, 14 Maret. Masih banyak konsumen menanyakan, kapan koran kesayangannya terbit lagi atau kenapa tidak terbit.

"Saya tidak tahu masalahnya. Tapi banyak pembeli yang menanyakan," kata Suhadak, pengecer koran di Jalan Dharmahusada. Suhadak biasanya menjual Surabaya Post 20 eksemplar per, hari. Dengan harga agen Rp 750, ia menjual seharga Rp 1.000. Artinya, ia untung Rp 5.000 hanya dari penjualan Surabaya Post. Sejak koran itu berhenti terbit, penjualan Jawa Pos di kiosnya meningkat, dari 50 menjadi 60 eksemplar per hari.

Mohammad Arif, pedagang Koran eceran di Jalan Karang Menjangan; menyatakan, kini tujuh pelanggan S…

Anwar Ibrahim: Malaysia Kini Seperti Indonesia Saat Reformasi

Pemimpin oposisi Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, akhirnya menghirup udara bebas setelah mendapatkan pengampunan dari Raja Malaysia Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V, Rabu lalu. Hal ini menyusul kemenangan koalisi oposisi Pakatan Harapan dalam pemilu pada 9 Mei lalu, setelah mengalahkan Barisan Nasional yang sudah berkuasa 62 tahun. Pakatan memperoleh 113 kursi, Barisan 79 kursi, Partai Islam se-Malaysia 18 kursi, dan lainnya meraih sisanya. Pakatan mengusung Mahathir Mohamad sebagai perdana menteri ketujuh. Perdana menteri periode 1981-2003 ini pula yang pernah memenjarakannya. Anwar menyatakan masalahnya dengan Mahathir itu sudah selesai. "Biarkan dia memerintah dengan tenang," kata dia dalam wawancara khusus dengan wartawan Tempo, Abdul Manan, di rumahnya di Bukit Segambut, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sabtu lalu, tiga hari setelah pembebasannya dari penjara.