The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Thu, 08/26/2004 2:30 PM | LifeI Wayan Juniartha, The Jakarta Post/Denpasar, Bali
The Bali Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI Bali) has a unique way of celebrating its 10th anniversary — organizing a cartoon exhibition, where most of the work deals with the dark side of journalism, from news-spinning and insinuation to the prevailing culture of bribery among local journalists.
Titled “”Journalists in the Eyes of Cartoonists””, the exhibition features 32 works of 17 local cartoonists, including some of the island’s most respected cartoonists such as Ida Bagus Marti naya, Kadek Jango Pramartha, Wayan Gunasta and Cece Riberu. Held in the Bali Museum in downtown Denpasar, the exhibition runs through Aug. 28.
The chairman of AJI Bali, Anton Muhajir, pointed out that the exhibition was a necessary step to maintain the psychological health of journalists. According to Anton, to gain public trust journalists should prove their trustworthiness and independence from time to time. To be able to act as a true pillar of democra cy, to function as a social control, the media corps must be able to embrace criticism with the same level of fervor it shows when criticizing other elements of society.
“”We believe that introspection and self-examination should be an integral part of our lives and work as journalists. The exhi bition is a good way to gauge the public’s opinion of journalists and to find out whether we, as journalists, are mature enough to accept criticism,”” he said.
Separately, cultural observer Hartanto Yudhoprasetyo praised the exhibition as a critical step toward the advancement of democratic values on the island.
“”The cartoonists and journalists are giving a great lesson in democracy, that is that criticism is not taboo. They also have showed that criticism should not necessarily lead to hostility or enmity between their respective communities. Criticism and the ability to hold a healthy and honest public debate on certain issues are the necessary foundations for the establishment of an open society,”” he concluded.
Some of the displayed works do indeed mock irresponsible journalists, who, instead of informing and enlightening their communities, succumbed to various temptations, such as bribery, political influence and more bribery, and end up polluting the minds of their readers with lies, fear and hate through fabricat ed news and unsound journalistic practices.
In this sense, journalists have became spin-doctors for var ious interest groups and are no longer independent seekers of truth.
Veteran cartoonist Ida Bagus Martinaya, alias Gus Martin, addressed this subject in a cartoon, which could easily be said to be the best cartoon in the exhibition. The cartoon portrays a smiling journalist who is removing his spectacles to apparently replace them with a new set of glasses presented by a woman’s manicured hand. The new glasses, it turns out, are not made of glass at all, but of two envelopes.
Envelope, or amplop in Indonesian, refers to the unethical conduct of a large number of journalists who accept cash from their sources, usually high-ranking government officials and wealthy entrepreneurs. A source usually gives cash enclosed in an envelope, thus, the reference. This practice is so widespread that it is ceasing to be a practice and instead is becoming a way of life.
“”It’s a powerful piece of work because Gus Martin does not employ a single word or any dialog in the sketch, yet the message is loud and clear. That’s what a cartoon is supposed to be, isn’t it,”” journalist Rofiqi Hasan said.
Not all of the cartoons deal with the shortcomings of journal ists. Several pieces, particularly by another veteran cartoonist, Cece Riberu, deal with the hazards and hardships journalists encounter in their work.
Cece’s most striking work features a man, who is wearing a dark suit that has Perusahaan (company) emblazoned across it, is sporting a wide, greedy grin while furiously milking a cow. It is an interesting cow for she is smoking a cigarette and a camera hangs around her neck.
If the cow is carrying a camera and smoking a cigarette she must therefore be a journalist-cow, mustn’t she?
The cow utters only one word, the Balinese exclamation badah, which is usually used to convey a sense of frustration, disap pointment, bewilderment and helplessness.
“”That’s exactly the response of the majority of Indonesian journalists when they are being exploited by their employers. All they can say is badah, a silent protest,”” another spectator quipped.