Scrambling to Arrange “Truth”

BECOME whose true truth is?

The phrase from Sally Claire’s Journalism 101 tutorial that is currently circulating on a number of social media platforms is interesting to note, “If someone says it’s dry and another person says it’s dry, it’s not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out of the fucking window and find out which is true ”.

“Truth” (in quotation marks) is often fought over by individuals or which represent institutions to build trust in the public sphere. Common term we know: dominating public opinion.

True truth is not just “truth”. “Truth” is a product of framing a point of view, packaging from a choice of diction to form a certain narrative, or a product of chronological arrangement of an event. We know it as a version, or statement crammed according to whose point of view and for what.

Examples of plugging in faith through conveying the “truth”, for example, can be seen from the news about the death of six members of the Islamic Defenders Army (Laskar Pembela Islam – LPI) guarding Rizieq Shihab, the Djoko Tjandra scandal involving a number of law officers, fugitive Harun Masiku corruption case, reporting of a number of cases of defamation of figures and who are not figures through electronic transactions, as well as a “war of perceptions” about violations of health protocols and crowds during the Covid-19 pandemic.

These examples are part of a public information crisis that leaves people wondering: what really happened, and which information can be trusted?

The media are often faced with anomalous conditions, and only present two sides of information (two versions), without being able to convince the public which is actually true. So the safest way to go (sometimes with doubt) is usually to load both versions. Of course, unless the media chooses the attitude of investigating itself to sit the case of the public issue; which in Sally Claire’s term “looks through the window to find out what’s right”.

So it was right when the PWI Center Honorary Council also encouraged journalists to trace and investigate the case of the death of six LPI members in the incident at Km 50 of the Jakarta – Cikampek Toll Road, December 7, 2020. DP Chairman Ilham Bintang considered the statement necessary to reduce the doubts of journalists and media in investigating the incident.

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The task of journalism to convey truth, justice and humanity in certain aspects will see the reality of the struggle for interests in competing for public space. What is conveyed through the mainstream media and social media is only “the arranged truth”.

For most of 2020, the public space has been filled with various interests competing to convey the truth according to their respective versions. Each party justifies their statements and steps on behalf of the goals of the interests of the people. The struggle for space has been strengthened by the massive opinion-building of buzzers, including the use of comment sections on news portals. Consequently, in certain public issues it becomes more difficult for us to conclude what is right and what is not.

Holy Altar of Journalism

Let’s go back to the creed of “journalistic truth”. In the midst of the uncertainty of “truth”, the standard mechanism in the production of information is the holy altar of journalism. This is the crown of the journalistic path, a procedure that is absolutely necessary so that our information products remain on the path of accountability. The morality of the road is the embodiment of journalistic ethics.

In the midst of the banality of fighting for “truth”, journalists and media are increasingly required to be able to convey the truth. In simple terms, the flow of the mechanism is pursued through accountable journalistic processes. Meanwhile, reliable information is obtained from the willingness to carry out disciplined verification of words, statements and facts. Including verifying tweets on Twitter, status on Facebook, Instastory on Instagram, as well as uploads via the Youtube platform.

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It is through such a mechanism that journalists and media can contribute in guarding the truth, resolving doubts both within the media itself and in the interests of the public.

Throughout 2020, as a reflection of conditions from previous years, the media were faced with power rivalries that made the public space a place to build opinion. In reality, these “truth” arrangements – in image format and cornering accents – cannot be separated from the 2024 contestation projection.

Who won the battle for “truth”? Those who have access to resources of power and strong economic resources? Then where is the conscience that remains in the media newsroom?

Whoever has control over opinion is not necessarily entitled to claim the truth. Isn’t it on the other hand that the public is also increasingly critical in assessing conclusions, statements, and formulation of opinions that are being led massively by buzzers?

There is a point that should be addressed critically. Namely, what is the “status” of truth claimed by certain parties in a public issue? This is what should encourage the media to persuade efforts to find the truth.
If it only contains statements, either individually or on behalf of an institution, and then does not verify it independently or investigatively, the media can be trapped in the frame of mind of those who cram their opinions. Especially now that there are massive influencers and buzzers spouting defense and imagery to certain parties.

Journalist’s Organizational Duties

Presenting the truth on public issues is a standard duty for journalists and the media. In fact, it has become a task since journalism existed. However, the projection of political contestation, the development of information technology, and the human will to survive through the “buzzer-like professions” form a new dynamic in the management of truth telling. Faith conveys the truth, not just “truth”, in it contains the ethical responsibility6 of the media.

The media must carry out a fact check, so that the role mandated by the Press Law, namely serving the public by conveying information, providing education, entertaining, and carrying out social control functions can run on the track.

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The ability to convey the truth, on the other hand, is often overshadowed by threats of violence, both physically and psychologically. Reports of violence and intimidation from the coverage of demonstrations against the revision of the KPK Law, the Omnibus Law, and so on show that protection for journalists in carrying out their duties has not been understood as a “shared responsibility” for elements of society who need information and guard the intellectual life of the nation.

PWI, as one of the journalism professional organizations, at all levels of management, both at the central, provincial and district / city levels, is required to have systematic efforts to increase the capacity and competence of its members. The increase in professionalism is carried out, among others, through the intensive implementation of the Journalist Competency Test (Uji Kompetensi Wartawan – UKW), guarantees of advocacy and protection both physically and legally, as well as efforts related to welfare.

With a map of challenges in the midst of the struggle for public space, journalists’ comprehensive capabilities, both technically and ethically, are no longer negotiable. Total adaptation to multiplatform capabilities and attitudes is needed, so that it becomes smarter to read the tendency of the struggle for public space using various social media platforms.

In 2021, the media’s continued task of guarding public issues is projected, especially around controlling the Covid-19 pandemic. The coverage will focus on the use of vaccines, fairness of distribution, evaluation of its implementation, development of positive patient management, discipline of health protocols, adaptation of new behaviors, and escorting social assistance which in 2020 have been proven to be misappropriated.

The focus of the coverage demands the intensity of positioning journalists in their professional duties, which portrays social responsibility for the nation. Presenting the truth is the crown of this profession.

– Amir Machmud NS, journalist SUARABARU.ID and Chairman of the PWI of Central Java Province.