Religion got more attention since the 9/11 tragedy. The media started writing about religious issue while the journalists got more interested in writing “feature” of religious stories. Nowadays, people can find specific column on religion in almost every mass media. This phenomenon gives more chances for people to access more information about religious issues Media and religion influence each other. However, this relation is not always easily and harmoniously carried out.
Realizing the importance of relation between media and religion, CRCS-ICRS presented Mr. Endy M. Bayuni to become the speaker in Wednesday Forum; the topic was “Religion and Media” and was heldon Wednesday, February 15, 2012.
Bayuni, who is currently working as senior editor in a leading newspaper in Indonesia, The Jakarta Post, started his presentation by mentioning that both Religion and Journalism could be both rival and friend. They are united because both are engaged with the search for the truth, yet they have different view on the status of the truth. Religion teaches the final truth, while journalism holds the principle of truth as a process. That is why, religion is addressed as “taken for granted” while the media constantly verifies its information.
A 2003/2004 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, Bayuni believes that media is the mirror of society. Media shows the society’s situation through news, which is based on the factual situation. In Indonesia,
religious life is polarized in a various sketches. The preaching of religious harmony does not result in serious implication. However, it becomes a dilemma when the media should report the tension and conflict between religious communities. The ability to present news which is neutral and adequate is a big challenge. Could the media reduce the conflict, or it even provokes it?
Bayuni, who was a journalist for Reuters and Agence France Presse (AFP), said that there is a significant change in Indonesian journalism. During Suharto’s era, the media was shackled by the variety of rules that limited its range and independence in delivering news. Many media chose to be a “good boy” to avoid the banning. Therefore, religious conflict was hardly heard because the government had successfully covered it up. Yet, in the reformation era, media finally has a freedom to bring and lead public opinion wherever they like based on the freedom of press law. Even though there is a remarkable progress, it turns out that the media, which has already gained a “name”, apparently still hesitates to report the religious conflict and violence because the media fears of reporting “incorrect news”. Yet, the so called religious newspaper recklessly exposes this issue haphazardly that makes the religious tension and sensitivity getting stronger.
According to Bayuni, both variants mentioned are creating problem. Therefore, journalists should be equipped with knowledge of pluralism and multiculturalism to avoid it. By this, it is expected that journalists with well equipped knowledge of pluralism and multiculturalism can avoid subjectivity, or personal tendency, in reporting the news.
In addition, the concept of “peace journalism” needs to be introduced to media. The media should be part of the solution and not as the conflict booster. Why is this important? Bayuni gave an example of conflict in Ambon where Christian newspaper and Islamic newspaper strived to create the conflict worse. Yet, the media has the responsibility to carry out reconciliation when reporting religious conflict.
At the end of his presentation, Bayuni, who is an alumnus of Kingston University UK, stated that Indonesia press needs inputs from academician to develop and improve its quality, especially concerning to the religious issues. (SAM)