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June 25, 2009
Perspectives of Major Media Outlets Reflect Country’s Pluralism, Study Says
Despite a study showing that five national publications had strikingly different perspectives when it came to reporting on Ahmadiyah and the antipornography bill, the general feeling is that the country’s media is a healthy example of the how the press works in a pluralistic society.
“It’s inevitable that the media would project differing perspective as they were formed in a pluralistic society,” journalist Aristides Katoppo said on Thursday.
“No media exists whose participants are homogenous.”
A team of five researchers from the Habibie Center, who presented their findings during the launch of a book, “Pluralism Issues in Media Perspective,” chose the controversial Ahmadiyah Muslim community and anti- pornography bill as representations of pluralism in the country because they sparked polar opposite views, which the media itself contributed in shaping.
The study analyzed how weekly news magazines Gatra and Tempo, and dailies Kompas, Media Indonesia and Republika framed the two issues by their choice of sources and words in their reports.
“These five media outlets are aspects of the plurality in our society,” Sumarno, one of the researchers, said in his presentation, adding that the media members had different views in framing the news and presenting the facts.
He said Kompas, Media Indonesia and Tempo tended to quote news sources that were against the antipornography bill and supported Ahmadiyah’s existence, while Republika took the opposing stance but with a similar approach. Gatra displayed a more impartial view on both issues.
Sumarno said that the main message conveyed by Kompas, Media Indonesia and Tempo was that to deny Ahmadiyah its right to exist violated the Constitution and was an abuse of human rights, while passing the antipornography bill would limit freedom of expression and discriminate against women.
“Republika viewed Ahmadiyah as blasphemous and therefore pushed the government to take a stand against it,” said Afdal Makkuraga Putra, a fellow researcher, adding that the paper saw the antipornography bill as an attempt to protect women.
“Their choice of words reflected the news perspective that they represented,” Afdal said.
A. Makmur Makka, communications director at the Habibie Center, said that as an organization, each media establishment had its own distinctive characteristics, which were shaped by its audience and by its management.
“This is reflected in its editorial policies, so it is acceptable to be partial as long as the news report is written in good conscience,” Makmur said, adding that what was presented in a news report was a result of agreements between various interests in the newsroom.
“We can’t really label media outlets as pluralist or non-pluralist based on their perspectives on two issues,” he said.