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Local media blasted for 'amateurish' crash reports

Jakarta Post - May 15, 2012

Jakarta – Media watchdogs have condemned the way local media covered the Sukhoi Superjet 100 crash at Mt. Salak, saying that most of news outlets, television in particular, had promoted sensationalism and was insensitive towards victims of the crash.

Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) chairman Dadang Rahmat Hidayat said that journalists from the news media lacked basic skills in performing their journalistic works. "Of course, this event is very newsworthy. But the media should find and present the news in a proper manner," Dadang said.

The KPI said that television journalists performed poorly when bringing live coverage from the event. "This is not a small event so reporters should have the basic knowledge of what actually happened and how they would present it to the public. And in the case of live reporting, they should be more careful because there are no editors involved," he said. "Don't make reporting on a tragedy become a tragedy of reporting," Dadang said.

From the early hours after the Superjet crashed at Mt. Salak, news media carried conflicting reports about details from the incident and when it was obvious that no passengers survived the crash, they switched to focusing on the conditions of the victims.

Some reporters in the field went as far as describing gory details from the victims conditions while others asked trivial questions as to what was really inside the body bags. Reporters also pressed families of the victims into giving detailed accounts of their loved ones who perished in the crash.

The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) urged journalists to abide by the journalism code of ethics in presenting their reports. In a statement, AJI said that it regretted sensational reporting which included frequent airing of videos depicting the distressed families of victims.

AJI chairman Eko Maryadi said that although the government no longer applied regulation on content of the media, the news media should censor themselves on humanitarian grounds.

"Like it or not, the media should regulate themselves. They should have extra sensitivity. The choices are to self-regulate and not become the subject of government regulations such as what happened in the past," Eko said.

Contacted separately, psychologist Ratih Andjayani said that media have dramatized the crash to the point where it could hurt the feelings of victims' families.

"Questions with insensitive language could depress the victims' families further," she said. Ratih said journalists should only chose their words wisely. "The most important thing is to make the wording precise," she said. (fzm)