Thursday, July 21, 2005

Media Center on the Border Zone: Role Media in Conflict Transformation

By Wahyuana

Media and journalism has been victims and also be part in riots and sectarian conflict at Maluku, Indonesia (1999-2002), they are to be divorced as effect of excessive horizontal conflict, and journalism often resulting biased information and controversy. Local journalists also have been desperate to be Christian’s journalist and Islamic journalist. But on Maluku case, media was change and then have been playing part of important role to promoting stop conflict violence and contribute support peace and reconciliation of conflict transformation process.

Until now, nothing any a determine data how much victims of riots which then to be change of sectarian conflict of Islamic community and Christian community at Maluku, Indonesia (1999-2002). In Ambon city, hitherto sporadic terror actions still often happened as expression effect traumatic past conflict. Based on data the Bakubae movement--NGO’s of peace and conflict resolution have estimate about 12.000 peoples was dead, media report about 8.000 peoples, while official government says about 1.400 peoples was dead. Until now, thousands refugee are still living at refugee camps.

Maluku sectarian conflict really have become a disaster that adding long chain human disaster in Indonesia post authoritarians power of regime Soeharto down at era political reform 1997-2005. Hitherto the conflict which very brutal and cruel are still difficult to be comprehended by common sense, why could been happened?

In Flash Maluku Conflict
Conflict in Maluku triggered by trivial problem of fight two young men that is a city transport driver and a addict rent city transport in terminal Batumerah, Ambon city. In Maluku, quarrelling between young men has become popularly matter. But the fight at an afternoon in January 19, 1999 is become strangely. Because the quarrelling then becomes mass fighting and incursion fight of Islamic-Christian between kampongs in Ambon. Early, the initial issue expanded was expulsion to all citizens urban of Bugis-Buton-Makasar tribe, because coincidence one of the young men quarrelling comes from Buton.

And then the round quarrelling was expanded into interfaith fight issues. And during some days the conflicts have extended to entire all islands at Maluku province. Eleven months later, December 27, 1999, the riots have expanded to North Maluku which also result victim thousands peoples was death.

According version police said the riot are effect of hundreds freeman that going home to Ambon from Jakarta, after Ketapang riots in November 1999 at Central Jakarta. The group’s freeman then are to be acting provocation which challenge riot to be conflict religion Islamic-Christian background.

About more 100.000 troops of Indonesian National Military have been sent to Ambon during periodic 1999-2004 to handle this conflict. But troops and police also were unable to immediately handle conflict. Oppositely in a few cases, they have been partaking provocation in so many events of violence and not to be neutral.

Guns for the conflicts even also have changed from initially only in the form of stone, arrow, and big knife have rounded into homemade firearms, semi automatic gun, and homemade bomb.

The excessive conflicts have influenced all life sectors. There no one organization and institute in Ambon that do not affect sectarian conflict, all breaking in Islamic side and Christian side. The government institution also separated in office of Islam-Christian, including police institution.

Resident Islam moves to Islam region side, and so do the Christian residents. Governmental functionaries are from all segmentation and the elite figures also desperate in the religion group.

Collapse all institution and society organizations causes Maluku, especially Ambon city as center conflict area, like a society do not have a authority social system. Peoples grass root become very frustrated about condition his life which then pushing them to make anarchists action that was irresponsible.

Local media in the conflict
When conflict break in Maluku, local media is important the source information at there. There has any a newspaper Suara Maluku by owner Jawa Pos media group, two private radio and three media by owner government are Indonesian State Television branch Maluku (TVRI), Indonesian State Radio branch Maluku (RRI), and Indonesian Office News branch Maluku of Antara.

When sectarian conflict break and cause segregation region of Islam –Christian side, problems arise when Islamic journalists cannot go to his media office that stay in Christian region. Islamic journalists are just only working in Islam region, and so do all Christian journalists. Early there is still any strive to remain coordination and maintain solidarity of teamwork. For example, Islamic journalists shouldn’t go to his media office but just send his report news by facsimile or phone. But the excessive conflict condition in field which become progressively, they are finally break and separate become Islamic-Christian side.

Media government that expected can play function as a media neutral and can as voice information of both parties; in the reality they are which first to be broken and desperate to TVRI region Islam-TVRI region Christian, RRI Islam-RRI Christian and also the Antara. The Suara Maluku also broken and desperate to be two newspapers is Suara Maluku for cover Christian side and Ambon Ekspress to cover Islamic side, both by owner Jawa Pos media group.

When in phase top conflict at 2000-2001, noted any newspaper Siwalima, Bela Reformasi, Dara Pos, Masnait, Suara Maluku, Tragedi Maluku, Tual Pos, Seram Pos at Christian side, and Ambon Ekspres dan Suissma at Islamic side. Also any radio Bhara, DMS, Gelora Merpati Ambon, Manusela, RRI, Sangkakala, Yournex at Christian side and radio Kabaresi and Naviri at Islamic side. And a radio SPMM – radio of voice Muslim advocate—by Islamic hardliner and to voice war Jihad.

Implication disparate become the media Islamic-Christian are give a symbolisation of conflict region zone Islamic - Christian in Ambon society. Before 1999-2002 there isn’t any sectarian separately and Maluku to known as a pluralism society.

Local journalists also have become victim of conflict. Journalist Max Apono, his house was burst at village Pohon Puleh. Poly Yoris are suffering traumatic because his experience for several hours in a speedboat which the entire passenger was dead by hit gunfire from a sniper, and only him that safe. Journalist Dien Kellilauw his house was burst, and so does journalist house Ahmad Ibrahim. More than 50 journalists to be victim because conflict, their house was burst injured or was death.

Effect of segregation region and traumatic of journalist are Islamic journalists being difficult to do reportage and apply mechanism of cross check information to Christian region. And so do Christian journalist difficult to get accessed information at Islamic side. “We also get pressure and get threat will to kill from my religious hardliner readers to boycott interview of contrary side,” said one of Maluku journalist. Some tendencies of working media at Maluku conflict when top phase conflict:

1. Media like to quote interview with elite figures and extreme religious leader to get his opinion that can make heating situation.

2. Pressure from interest groups and segregation region have make local journalist fear to reportage on field. So those, almost journalist just get information from second source.

3. Not cover both sides. Averages amount news source 1-3 person to get report pictures an incident.

4. Not any cross check information to other side.

5. Anonymous source

6. Use words of hard, bad image, abusing and sensational titles word in news.

7. Minim perspective of conflict resolution and stop violence.

Maluku Media Center (MMC)
To mediate facilitated, and development peace journalism at the Maluku conflict area, The Alliance of Independent Journalist (AJI) set up the Maluku Media Center (MMC) on a border zone between Christian and Muslim areas at kampong Mardika, Ambon city. Any three main activities that were developed function at MMC:

1. As interaction place between journalists.
MMC is provided as neutral place and independent, which can be accessed by Muslim journalist and Christian journalist on conflict area is so founded at border zone. At the MMC they can meet together and conduct cross check information each other, news clarification, joint together to reporting, and make cooperation to make news production.

In MMC provided by various property for journalist activities like computer, machine of facsimile, telephone, internet, television, library and meeting room. All property provided of free charge. During two month early, because on the dangerous situation, MMC only opening 4 hours a day and only 2-4 journalist attended and access facilities the MMC.

Various activities performed to build interaction and trust amongst journalist for both side, like monthly discussion, weekly discussion, informal events, and training. Also performed reportage event together, for example, inviting Christian journalist cover to Moslem area accompanied by Moslem journalists. And so do Moslem journalists go to Christian region with the control of his friend of Christian journalist. Weekly discussion with news source more help journalist to meet the source and get clarification information.

2. As place to development and training of peace journalism and conflict reporting.
The MMC conduct trainings of peace journalism and conflict resolution; make Internet site and bulletin of peace journalism to give facility produce news of peace journalism, management by Maluku journalists’ self. Trainings do not just for media print, but also for the radio, television, and media alternative by locals NGO. Various national and international media organization and institute with enthusiastic involve and give him contribution in many activity form in this program. International and national NGO follow to join to make training program for improvement skills journalist with MMC, like Internews, BBC, British Council, LSPP, Centurion, Unicef, USAID, TAF, SCO, KAF, LAPAN, MDLF, Radio 68 H, etc. The MMC also provide the monitoring media per monthly with news content analysis method.

3. To pushing and promote conflict resolution, stop violence and peace at Maluku.
The MMC also have been active as part of civil society groups and humanitarian institution which work for peace and promote conflict resolution and stop violence at Maluku. Activities of performed like discussion and mediation with stakeholder of conflict. Follow the meetings for peace and conflict resolution. Be joint networking with Bakubae NGO’s of peace movement to make facilitate peace and meeting among grassroots groups. Lobbies and promote to official central government, parliamentary, provincial government, military, police, NGO, informal leader, religious leader, hardliner groups and local peoples and various parties to push conflict resolution and peace. Per biweekly give interview at local television and radio to promote peace and conflict transformation. Active attended and support peace resolution process of Malino II agreement that brokered by government.

Discussion and interaction amongs journalist at Maluku Media Center (MMC)

*Wahyuana is a journalist and peace activist. He is founder and former program manager Maluku Media Center (MMC). Contact him at email :

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