This article was originally written and published in Indonesian on 21 February 2023.
In 2021, AJI (Alliance of Independent Journalists) Yogyakarta and Kurawal Foundation held a collaborative investigative report about the agrarian conflict that correlates with Keraton Yogyakarta (Keraton), the authority of Yogyakarta. At that project, AJI Yogyakarta invited some national and local media of Yogyakarta to join the collaboration. However, in the course of the program, none of Yogyakarta’s local media joined the collaboration. Later, this led to a big question on the state of local media in Yogyakarta, particularly on their independence and their stance.
The anomaly made Gilang Jiwana Adikara, a lecturer from the Department of Communication at Universitas Negeri Yogyakarta, interested in doing research about Yogyakartas’s media stance and independence. The upshot of this research was then published in a journal article entitled “Framing of local media in the management issues of Sultan Ground and Pakualaman Ground in Yogyakarta”.
In this research, Gilang posited that there was a tendency for the local media in Yogyakarta to avoid the issue of Keraton’s power—including the agrarian conflict that was discussed in this collaboration. Then, through this research, BALAIRUNG had the opportunity to interview Gilang on Monday, 28 November 2022. Through this interview, Gilang further revealed the anomaly of Yogyakarta’s local media on policies issued by Keraton.
How do you see the independency of local media in Yogyakarta?
In some ways, I would say that they are still fairly independent to a certain extent. There is no intervention from outsiders, so they are free to determine their own future. In a few reports or articles, they still stand on their idealistic values, such as Tribun Jogja, Harian Jogja, and Harian Rakyat.
GS, everything depends on the topic. They can safely work on generally accepted topics such as humanities, politics, and national issues. However, if they are writing about the power of Keraton, they must negotiate numerous things. This is because some of them, one of which is Harian Jogja, have close affiliations with Keraton. If we observe that, there will be opportunities for conflicts of interest to appear. This is one of the factors why they cannot move independently.
What factors affect and cause local media’s inability to move freely and independently?
During the research in Yogyakarta, I saw many factors that prevented the local media from being truly independent. One of the factors is the matter of their location. For example, in Yogyakarta, the citizens are so loyal and have high respect for Keraton. Then, this culture and social reality influence the local media here. For that reason, in order to be accepted by the locals, they have to follow the interests of the market, Yogyakarta’s citizens.
In addition, they must also be careful not to trigger opposition from certain parties. Because, except for the Keraton, the issue of independence experienced by the Yogyakarta local media can also come from their media business owners. These media tend to take topics that do not hurt their owners’ business group to not harm the business being run.
How do you further explain the relationship between cultural and social reality and mass media independence?
As a consumer, people have tastes; I think we cannot force them to follow what we present in the mass media. So, if the public looks at it from the supply and demand lines, the mass media is a transaction of buying and selling information. This context is similar to economics; where there is supply, there is demand. Demand comes from the audience. What the audience asks, that is what the media provide. So it is not just providing the supply.
However, when the public urges for it to be presented by the media, the mass media can stay longer. So, educating the public requires a long, lengthy, and complicated process. Many people say Indonesians are bad at digesting information because the media provides terrible things. On the contrary, our media has provided good news, but the people are not interested in it. That is the fact of our public’s taste. It is not only in Indonesia but also in the global community.
Eventually, media is used for entertainment. Therefore, good information becomes less soluble than mediocre information. Does society have to accept many kinds of facts? Yes. Is it the mass media’s duty to educate? No. The mass media’s job is to serve the information needs of society, not to educate their tastes. However, will this condition change? I do not know whether it will change or not.
What is the background for you to elevate issues related to journalistic independence?
In 2021, AJI Yogyakarta and Kurawal Foundation conducted a collaborative investigation project, which raised the topic of agrarian land in Yogyakarta. However, at the time of opening the volunteer registration, only one journalist from the local media in Yogyakarta dared to join, although he eventually decided to withdraw. This led to journalistic nonparticipation when researching the Keraton policy intervention issue as the problem formulation. An analysis of the answer arises, namely Keraton’s immense power and the media’s necessity to not make reckless decisions.
Subsequently, I raised this issue in the research I carried out from 2021 to early 2022. Through this research, there are two questions. First, are journalists in Yogyakarta not independent from the Keraton? Second, how does the editorial policy work regarding reports about the Keraton?
What do you want to tell the public through this research?
From this research, I would like to tell the public that the alleged lack of journalism independence by the local media in Yogyakarta is proven and not only reflected in their news. Therefore, in the first part of the research, I want to see where they are leaning when discussing agrarian issues in Yogyakarta.
As it turns out, they only reported the safe parts and removed the unpleasant ones. From here, we can see which side they were leaning towards. The following publication, which I said is still in the review process, verifies the framing analysis to confirm the answer from the first finding. Maybe next year it will be published.
People can find out the results through social media because everything has been opened, so it is easy to see. I would like to say to the public that, in the end, our media (Yogyakarta) cannot truly be independent regarding a specific topic.
What are your hopes and suggestions for local media in Yogyakarta in the future?
My hope is, firstly, that local media maintain their integrity and idealism so they keep providing decent information to the public. Secondly, they can still provide reliable information. My hope is headed toward that. They should return to what is stated in the Undang-Undang Pers (Press law). That is what the local media in Yogyakarta should stand for.
Authors : Ayu Mela Kurniasari, Muhammad Wildan, and Rais Aulia (Intern)
Editor : Muhammad Fathur
Illustrator : Salvinia Amabilis Aryufa (Intern)
Translator : Ester Veny Novelia Situmorang