The National Press Day – Pandemic and Media Freedom

By: Retno Intani ZA

-Chair of the Education and Training of Indonesian Cyber ​​Media Union/SMSI

Running up to the commemoration of National Press Day on February 9, 2021, should there be reflections to remind has the role of the Indonesian national press been played for social responsibility optimally during this pandemic? Has the Indonesian press obtained the freedom to carry out its function as guardian of the interests of society?

In addition to be an effective democracy, media freedom is needed to reduce the number of victims during the Covid-19 pandemic. Even when the world is fighting Covid-19, mass media is considered to save lives if the media plays its social responsibility function properly.

This is in line with the enthusiasm that emerged at the second Global Media Freedom Conference hosted virtually by Canada and Botswana last November 2020.

The Global Conference Forum for Media Freedom was launched for the first time on July 11, 2019 at Printworks, Surrey Quay, London. During the grand meeting, Indonesia was actively involved in forums discussing strategic policies for media freedom and at that time Indonesia was represented by the Minister of Communication and Information, Rudiantara.

One of the decisions agreed upon with representatives of all country leaders was to commit to holding an annual meeting of the global conference for media freedom. This commitment is to support the development of a media that is diverse, independent and in public interest.

In the second year of the Global Conference for Media Freedom, Canada and Botswana virtually hosted the pandemic, on 16 November 2020. Ministers and participants discussed various issues including the impact of Covid-19 on media freedom and urged governments to take steps to ensure media freedom and journalist safety.

This second meeting seemed very significant considering that in the midst of the swift flow of social media information, the presence of the mainstream media can be a bulwark for the spread of hoax or misleading information.

Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, if the public were immersed in this misleading information, it was inconceivable how many people would become victims because they were ignorant of the dangers of a disease that had no cure. Therefore, the Global Conference Forum for Media Freedom emphasizes the existence of press freedom. Press freedom that is harmonized with the role of the media.

From the discussion at the conference, there were three things that the media could do, namely acting as a supervisor of the government to overcome the pandemic, carrying out public responsibility for public health and being alert to misleading information regarding the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine.

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First, the media act as “watchdogs” of the running of the government, analyzing, evaluating and informing the public regarding the tasks, challenges and steps taken by the government to overcome the pandemic. To play this role, the media must be given the freedom so that people believe in the news of a media.

Second, the media have a high public responsibility for public health, they are tasked with delivering messages and supporting public health practices that will save lives.

Third, when the Covid-19 vaccine is finally ready for distribution, the media must try and be aware of misinformation, so as to avoid misleading “clickbait” and deliberately spreading fake news.

The three recommendations are very relevant to the needs of the community to fight Covid-19, therefore, ahead of the commemoration of the National Press Day, should the recommendations from the second Global Media Freedom Conference be able to reflect on media manager and Indonesian press people to act out of these three things as best.

Covid-19 is the biggest crisis in 2020 and demands quality national guidance work.

The Emergency Use Authorization ( EUA ) for the Covid-19 vaccine is carried out by all drug regulatory authorities around the world to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

In line with WHO guidelines, EUA vaccines can be determined with the following criteria: the government has determined a public health emergency, sufficient scientific evidence of the safety and efficacy of vaccines, quality meets applicable standards and good drug manufacturing methods, has greater benefits than risks and there are no alternatives. adequate and approved management.

The Indonesian government ensures that the Covid-19 vaccine for use in Indonesia has been prepared since November 2020. The government has designed a national vaccination program as an effort to deal with the corona virus pandemic.

As many as 1.2 million doses of vaccine ordered from Sinovac have arrived in Indonesia since December 6, 2020, followed by 1.8 doses of the same vaccine on December 31, 2020.

Through various opportunities, the Indonesian Ministry of Health together with Ministry of Communication and Information (Kominfo) and the Committee for Handling Covid-19 and National Economic Recovery (KPC-PEN) explained the stages of the Covid-19 vaccination.

First batch held in January to April 2021 for 13 million health workers, 17, 4 million for public officials and 21.5 million for the elderly. While batch 2 will be carried out in April 2021 to March 2022, vaccination is carried out for 63.9 million vulnerable people in areas with high risk of infection and 77.4 other communities based on a cluster approach according to vaccine availability. Seniors aged 60 years and over will be vaccinated after receiving information on the safety of vaccines for this age group from the National Agency of Drug and Food Control (BPOM).

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All vaccines available to the public have undergone rigorous safety and effectiveness testing including clinical trials, before they are approved for production and use.

In between his presentation of handling Covid-19 in West Java at BBC Media Action webinar (22/1), Ridwan Kamil, Governor of West Java was touched when he received a story from the Indonesian Minister of Health that in order to procure vaccines must compete with other countries because of limited production. It must have a bond first.

Now we know that vaccine procurement process to act vaccination is quite long and complicated. This means that vaccines are not bought haphazardly or procured in a country easily. But why are so many people still hesitant and unwilling to be vaccinated?

This is where the media must be able to play its role in carrying out high public responsibility for public health by providing messages and supporting public health practices as clearly as possible.

The media with their responsibility should continuously explain to the public why the Covid-19 vaccine is important, who should be vaccinated, what is the result or impact of not being vaccinated, how the vaccine works, what is the effect of the vaccine on the body, how to recognize different brands of vaccines and other necessary information for the general public.

Do not let hoax information spread more aggressively in the midst of society than the truth of information.

Britain, as the pioneer of the first Global Media Freedom Conference and a position as leader of the Coalition for Media Freedom with Canada, stated that Britain remains committed to working with Indonesia to defend media freedom and improve journalist safety.

“A free, independent and responsible media is a powerful weapon in fighting Covid-19. Freedom of the press is an important foundation for a successful health, public safety campaign and how the media can ensure the authorities improve the quality of work and protect the public from the Covid-19 virus, “said Owen Jenkins, British Ambassador to Indonesia at the conference as quoted by Rakyat Merdeka.

Hendry Ch. Bangun, Deputy Chair of the Press Council noted that what the Indonesian press has reported about Covid-19 been massive quantitatively and the trend is positive-tone news about pandemic and its related issues such as news about the work of the Covid-19 task force in various regions or cases related violations and its penalty, especially when it comes to famous people, but “Humanist forms of storytelling and critical investigations have not yet emerged. What appears is the presentation of data and the story seems dry followed” said Hendry in the BBC Media Action webinar (22/1).

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Meanwhile, the Minister of Communication and Information, Johnny G. Plate, in The 1st ASEAN Digital Minister’s Meeting (ADGMIN) which took place virtually from Jakarta, Thursday (21/01), discussed the relationship between digital infrastructure development and the handling of the pandemic.

Minister of Communication and Information, Johnny G. Plate, stated that the Indonesian government is optimally utilizing information and communication technology (ICT) to deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The digital transformation process is also seen in the handling of the nation’s pandemic, because Indonesia has consistently implemented digital-based solutions since the beginning of the pandemic,” he explained.

Minister Johnny stated that the Indonesian government had launched the PeduliLindung tracking-tracing-fencing platform and supported the development of a one-stop information platform “Bersatu Against Covid-19” or “United Against Covid-19”.

“These efforts contribute to the socialization of the Government’s program to encourage people to follow the mandatory health regulations,” he explained further.

In the Covid-19 Vaccination process, the Minister of Communication and Information shows that digital technology plays an important role in implementing it efficiently, because there are around 181.5 million recipients of the total 270 million Indonesian population.

Minister Johnny explained that the Indonesian government is utilizing a comprehensive “One Data Covid-19 Vaccine” as an integrated platform for handling vaccination management. “One Data Digital System for Vaccination, as an integrated platform for handling vaccination management, from vaccine registration, vaccine distribution, to publication, certificates for recipients,” said the minister confirmed.

When the infrastructure is available, of course, it is not only limited to technical management of vaccinations or mandatory regulations but also how to provide optimal benefits for the community, for example how the community will get clarity about Covid-19, the benefits of vaccines and other to persuade people to be healthy together .

However, freedom of the press has been given, infrastructure is built, but the media and the press as the front guard of information need to play themselves optimally to help educate the public in this pandemic era. (RI)