Indonesia in Focus
Indonesia and Envelope Journalism
Journalists and antigraft activists are taking steps to end the practice of “envelope journalism,” an institutionalized payoff system for reporters.
Officials and businesspeople often offer gifts, money or the use of facilities to journalists for their reports.
Unscrupulous reporters are locally known as wartawan amplop (envelope journalists).
“The envelope tradition, which is widespread among the news media, could reduce their credibility and that of their journalists,” said Heru Hendratmoko, who chairs the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), at the launch of the antibribery campaign Saturday at the Century Park Hotel in South Jakarta.
“Without credibility, the news media will not be able to play its role as a pillar of democracy.”
Vice President Jusuf Kalla said Friday he fully supported the campaign spearheaded by the AJI and would order all government officials to stop giving journalists money.
Present at Saturday’s launch were editors and leaders of anticorruption bodies, including Eko Tjiptiadi from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and Yunus Husein from the Financial Transaction Reports Analysis Center (PPATK).
Faisal Basri from the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) and Todung Mulya Lubis from Transparency International (TI) Indonesia were also in attendance.
They all put their weight behind the campaign to fight the “envelope culture” in the media.
The media has made significant contributions to boosting the national anticorruption drive with its investigative journalism and its rigid and thorough coverage on graft cases.
“We now have the responsibility to battle corruption inside the media,” International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) president Christopher Warren said. “We need more campaigns to fight envelope journalism.”
Envelope journalism is a chronic problem in the country, which robs citizens of accurate information. Many reporters think nothing of accepting gifts from their sources.
It has been reported that some government agencies even allocate budgetary funds for journalists. Even though the journalistic code of ethics clearly prohibits reporters from accepting bribes, they are divided on what constitutes a bribe.
A recent survey by the AJI shows that 85 percent of 400 journalists surveyed in 17 cities believed that accepting money from news sources was a form of bribery, but only 65 percent agreed that receiving valuable goods, such as cell phones and cameras was bribery.
Thirty-three percent of the respondents believed that having their travel expenses covered by a news source was a form of bribery, while 65 percent said it was not.
Thirty-six percent of journalists thought that hotel accommodation provided by news sources was bribery.
“Many journalists have an erroneous perception of bribery. They think bribery only occurs when a source deposits money into their bank account,” Heru said.
Tempo magazine Chief Editor Bambang Harimurti said his company allowed its reporters to accept souvenirs worth less than Rp 50,000 (US$5.30) from their news sources. “We must be careful in defining bribery,” he said.
But the practice of receiving envelopes from news sources is only one form of bribery, some reporters interviewed in the survey said the media companies they worked for also accepted money for news coverage.
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