Saturday, October 23, 2010

Freedom of the Press: The Means Justify the Ends

Too often do I read in the newspaper sentences like 'we have to uphold freedom of the press' or 'this is our right to freedom of expression'. Very masculine, demanding, active sentences.

Freedom of the press is an idea that relates to the media's function as the fourth pillar of democracy. You have legislative, judicative, and executive functions of the government, and the last you have a healthy media system which monitors the principles, instruments and practices of the government. All four pillars are representatives of the public, whose tasks are a variation of creating a just society - with order and welfare in mind.

So by that concept, freedom of the press is not an objective; it's a means. The press, as part of the media system, has a task to monitor where our tax money goes, if the people we elected are doing their job, and what we can do to aid the process. The press, not unlike the other three pillars that are fundamental to a state, serves the public.

The television industry in particular often interchanges the term audience rating with public interest. Audience rating refers to the amount of people watching a programme*. The television industry is not addressing a geographically, ethnically, religiously (to name a few) diverse audience, it's speaking to their target audience - in other words, the economically sound and the centrally located.

In contrast, the term 'public interest' refers to the general order and welfare of a society. It does not side with the majority, it tries to ensure that nobody is suffering; and if someone is suffering, they have the right not to be. And the press is one of the parties responsible, or at least potential, in ensuring that no one is**.

We can blame lax regulation or a political process that is too close to the industry, which to some extent are both valid. But it is also important to ask ourselves, whenever the almost classic 'freedom of the press' argument arises, 'Is it really the public's interest that is being served?'.

* Imagine our Jakarta-centric television infrastructure and you'll understand why our television programmes are so homogeneous.
** Reflecting to the current state of the country, we should see more of the conditions in Eastern Indonesia for instance. But of course news that expose too much suffering is unappealing for advertisers, as it reduces the readers/audience's motivation to consume the products advertised. Which makes the task ever harder for the press to submit news that are 'of the public's interest'. So that's why we have the over-exposed case of Ariel-Luna, for instance.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Why Students Make Better Teachers

One of the reasons why I feel more comfortable asking what students think of a social issue than I do asking public figures is because the latter have a tendency to try and convince others to agree with their ideas. While the former are in a state of mentality of constant learning*.

Some people find their peace of mind from finding definitive answers.

I find my peace of mind from knowing that because my logic is limited, other ideas, as long as they are intended for public welfare (kesejahteraan bersama), are always worth considering.

*Although not all students 'question' and not all public figures are so sure of themselves, it is inevitably the general trend.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Dear bloggers,

Your participation in a survey on blogging as part of a research conducted by a dear friend of mine will be really appreciated. Please click.

With many thanks,

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Battle of Who Could Care Less

In an ideal world, everything is reciprocal. A kind act is returned with another kind act. Even better, the receiving end decides to pay it forward to another. And the process goes on and on and on.

And in contrast, an offensive act is not returned. So then the cycle stops, because no one paid it forward. It wasn't even returned in the first place.

Lately I've been faced with the stark reality that usually we return offensive acts and not reciprocate kind favours. Freud would say it's because of our ego. One, two, three people. Then it spirals into a group. Then between groups. Sooner or later, on a societal level.

Then you have intergroup conflicts, ideological contests, and the battle of who could say worse things in public.

It becomes systemic. The simple unwillingness (not inability) to just know when to stop. I find that it's impossible to agree on everything in life. I don't always agree with my partner, the closest human being to me in my life. But when you want to try and make things work, for something bigger than ourselves, something bigger than the sake of being right - it becomes less important to win the battle.

I fully understand that when we speak of religion, political interest, violence, righteousness, things become much, much more complex. Scholars and politicians make careers out of studying these factors (I know I do, ha!) usually not surmountable in a lifetime. We come up with concepts, definitions, theories to try and understand why we cannot live together.

When I think sometimes - sometimes - things are just as simple as knowing when to return kindness with kindness, and return violence with silence.


But of course it would help if we had trustworthy law enforcement to end the violence. And while I'm at it, a government that sides with the 'general welfare' and a media system that practices journalism of peace instead of journalism of war for sensationalism and profitability. And a solution to structural poverty. Education. Health. Housing. Environmental problems.

But I digress.