As technology and internet grows rapidly nowadays, information become a powerful tool and therefore, insight can easily impact on public discourse. In this way, perceptions on particular situation can be changed by access to media. Although diverse and multiple voices are important for free speech in democracy, the journalist should realize that they may play a critical role specifically in conflict situation supporting the peace building process, allowing for participation, dialogue and reconciliation as well as strengthening civil society. As Orgeret (2016) stated in Conflict and Post-Conflict Journalism, there are four core societal role of the media, first, to provide information about people’s rights. Second, to discover illegal actions and protect people from corruption through the so-called watchdog function. Third, to function as a two-way channel between those who govern and the governed. Last, to serve as identity suppliers: the media should reflect how people see themselves and offer a wide spectrum of possible roles for people to take up.
From the four-core societal role of the media, we can see that journalism needs to include professional norms that support truthfulness, objectivity, neutrality and detachment. In order to serve and function as the appropriate media, good journalism differs from other form of reporting activity such as Public Relations because it does not aim to influence the public but rather pursues only the goal of reporting truthfully about reality. As David Lyon (2003), a BBC correspondent and prominent critic of Peace Journalism, he said that “our task is to find out what is going on, not carrying any other baggage”. From Lyon’s statement, this article would like to examine the journalism practice surrounding West Papuan issues. The objective of this article is to promote peace journalism in order to build more positive change towards West Papuan society.
In the case of West Papua issues, many scholars argue that the journalists have play a significant role in reporting conflict. In his research, Aslam (2010) has stated clearly that the framing and agenda setting by the media, in terms of what makes the news, determines not only the process of public opinion-making; it can also reflect the personal perceptions and prejudices of journalists in interpreting the conflict situations. Small and quick research shows that the title on West Papuan issues made by foreign journalist were dominated by negative and provocative sounds.
During 2017, there are 3,449 articles from foreign media published in the internet. The top three contributors are Associated Press (US based non-profit news platform), Radio New Zealand and Netscape (headquarters in Virginia, US). From those three platforms, there are negative trending themes such as “Indonesian security forces”, “gunmen”, “national liberation”, “attack”, and “death”.
Further, if we google the West Papua issues on the 2nd of October 2018 only, we could find nothing from foreign journalist on the positive development we had in the region. Instead, we could find around four to five articles speaking about separatist movement and its activity. For instance, the radionz.co.nz has published an article with title “Civil society condemns mass arrests of West Papuans”, or the oxfordstudent.com that has published the story of West Papuan Independent Leader, the Benny Wenda and lastly, theguardian.com which published the statement of Indonesian’s Vice President, Jusuf Kalla at the 73rd UN general assembly on Vanuatu. Kalla clearly stated at the assembly that “Indonesia will not let any country undermine its territorial integrity”. The problem with The Guardian is the way it formulates the article’s title. It says “Indonesia accuses Vanuatu of ‘inexcusable’ support for West Papua” instead of “Vanuatu crossed the line on Indonesia’s territorial integrity.” Just like what happened at the assembly.
From those observation on the media title in the internet, we could see that there is an unbalanced condition from foreign journalist in looking at the West Papua issues. From the trending themes, we can see that the words of “attack”, “gunmen”, “national liberation” and “death” could bring terror and fear for the readers without them realizing it. Therefore, there is an indication that there might be a hidden interest in attacking Indonesian government by publishing various article with provocative title without knowing how it will support the separatist movement in the country. As it mentioned earlier, the aim of this article is to promote peace journalism in order to support the development of West Papua region. By looking at the fact and numbers of article published, the media and journalist should immediately start to let go of their political and economic baggage in covering West Papuan issues.
Further, since our research reveals that majority of foreign media has published the negative yet unproven news for the Indonesian government in regards to the West Papuan issues; it is certain that the Indonesian government took the cautious way in dealing with foreign media. The international community might only know that the Indonesian government has close the access for foreign journalist. However, little did they know that it is not true that the Indonesian government has restricted the foreign journalist to cover Indonesia and West Papua issues.
In May 2015, President Jokowi announced that foreign journalists were free to visit West Papua just like any other region in Indonesia. It is required for foreign journalists to complete their Visit and VISA Permits. In 2013, there were 354 journalist visas to Indonesia, 28 of which were to Papua and West Papua. While in 2014, 27 journalists came to Papua and only 5 of them were refused due to administrative incompleteness. While in 2015, all journalists applications were accepted. Since West Papuan is widely known for its separatist movement, the Indonesian government are taking the alert on higher level in giving permission for the foreign journalist. Therefore, if you are a journalist who does not have political and economic interests, you can visit West Papua by applying for the journalist permit.
Peace Journalism, as a concept, is a set of distinctive norms used in the media presentation of conflicts. First coined by Johan Galtung, a sociologist and peace studies pioneer, the Peace Journalism model has acted as an organizing principle for initiatives in pedagogy and training, movement activism for media reform, and scholarly research. In reality, peace journalism has evolved itself from the conceptual realm into a movement in reality. This ‘peace journalism movement’ puts forward remedial measures to the dominance of certain patterns of conflict reporting, characterized as War Journalism. This should not be confused with the everyday term “war reporting,” meaning, simply, to report on wars. Instead, War Journalism describes forms of reporting that make further violence seem logical, sensible, even inevitable. Peace journalism is an intentional action to create a stream of information that focus on humanity and condemn violence or prolonged conflicts.
John Galtung first put forward his model as a table showing distinctions under four main headings. Whereas War Journalism was violence-oriented, elite-oriented, propaganda-oriented, and victory-oriented, peace journalism could be identified as peace and conflict-oriented, people-oriented, truth-oriented, and solution-oriented.
Borrowing from the result of Wayeta’s (2013) research on Journalists as New Actors in Conflict Situations in East Africa, we can see the same pattern happening in West Papua or even in anywhere conflict situation in the world. The study recommends that journalists should be knowledgeable on the matter they are reporting so as to improve their reporting skills on conflict management which would have positive impact of fair reporting and help cool down tempers or tension among groups or forces. The study also recommends that journalists should be provided with training and counselling; as they meet relevant stakeholders in their line of duty to help them tell where conflict is losing; facilitating coverage where need be; reporting on the positive stories and through sensitization workshops or the field. Thus, based on the several studies and facts that is shown surround the West Papuan issues, this article could conclude that the journalist should also understand that they are themselves are responsible in creating any positive or negative discourse surround particular issues. The choice is on their side. They could contribute as an agent of change for promoting peacebuilding or focusing in firing up the issues and supporting the separatist group. If we want to help West Papuan society in building the peace, all stakeholders should be involved in a synergic way, including, the journalist.