Indonesian press, anti-terror agency team up to combat terrorism

BNPT and media sign MoU of professional standards to respectively fight terror and cover it more effectively.

By Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

August 05, 2014
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Though the press and the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) agree terrorism should be crushed, the parties sometimes disagree both on how media cover terrorism-related news and how the scourge is fought.

  •  National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) head Ansyaad Mbai said the media play an important role in the country's effort to fight terrorism. [Bay Ismoyo/AFP]

    National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) head Ansyaad Mbai said the media play an important role in the country's effort to fight terrorism. [Bay Ismoyo/AFP]

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To bridge that gap, Indonesia's Press Council and BNPT recently signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). It aims to help the media and the agency maintain professional standards in their respective duties of combatting terrorism and covering it.

The MoU outlines a plan to develop guidelines on covering terrorism-related issues while also upholding the council's ethical standards. It also calls for organising a journalism workshop based on those guidelines.

Both the press and BNPT recognise the importance of counterterrorism efforts but have different perspectives on implementation of those efforts, Press Council chairman Bagir Manan said in a speech at the signing, which took place in April.

Council member and senior journalist Nezar Patria said the BNPT found fault in the media's coverage of the roots of terrorism , while the press often clashed with the agency's procedures during counterterrorism operations.

"Apart from BNPT's complaints, we also received public complaints on the media outlets' handling of coverage related to the victims of terrorist acts ," Nezar told Khabar Southeast Asia.

BNPT head Ansyaad Mbai said the press plays an important and strategic role in counterterrorism, but he cautioned media organisations to consider protecting the people and the state from terrorism threats.

"There is no (state) instrument that can control the media because it is a key to democracy. But there is an international common sense among news outlets that they should not broadcast live a terrorism raid ," he told reporters.

Nezar added, "So we found a common ground. We came up with an idea to organise a workshop during which BNPT will provide insight into what they have done so far while the press will give them perspective on how we work in covering terrorism issues, BNPT's counterterrorism efforts as well as aspects missing in between.

"It's a co-ordination to respect each other's professionalism."

Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) chairman Eko Maryadi welcomed the co-operation, but warned that it should not be used to direct the press to give disproportionate coverage to the police or its special counterterrorism squad.

AJI has done its part to instil better journalist practices in covering terrorism by publishing a book entitled "Journalists' Guidelines in Covering Terrorism" in 2011.

"But our efforts would not be effective if there was no support from media outlets' newsrooms. They need to continuously provide proper training for their journalists on how to conduct the right media coverage," he said.

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