Jakarta. "In the digitalized world, do we still need books? There are many sources other than books, like social media and WhatsApp for example. Aren’t they enough to provide new information?" senior television journalist Najwa Shihab asked.
It is Najwa's signature style to begin talk shows with a question. However, she did not pose that question to a TV audience, but to the crowd gathered at the oration for the opening ceremony of the Indonesia International Book Fair (IIBF) at the Jakarta Convention Center in Senayan, South Jakarta, on Wednesday (06/09).
Her speech addressed the spread of hoaxes, or what she calls virus dusta (virus of lies), and the public’s tendency to not filter information before accepting it as truth. The advent of the Internet has resulted in a democratization of information, but at the same time, people are used to reading instant, fragmented information without validating it.
"It was not that we didn’t have hoaxes in the past, but the flash flood of hoaxes and lies only happen in the digital world," she said.
Najwa added that even journalism is not safe from the potential hazards, especially digital journalism. Online news portals race to be the fastest news publisher, with the highest quantity of pieces available for consumption. Since their focus is driving traffic instead of promoting quality, online sources are prone to make mistakes.
As the national reading ambassador, Najwa urged the public to improve their reading habits by reading actual books.
"Books, unfortunately, are not the panacea but I believe that reading is a good method to shape a way of thinking that is not fragmented," she said.
Reading a book can be a practice for people not to make snap judgments and jump to conclusions.
"A good reader will be careful in making judgments before reaching the last page. The more they read, the more cautious they will be in digesting information," the daughter of prominent Muslim cleric Quraish Shihab added.
Once reading becomes a habit, people will not only be able to receive information, but to think critically by comparing and contrasting with other kinds of information.
"Reading for these people isn’t just a visual experience but they also see the 'invisible text' by connecting the book they’re reading with their real life experiences, as well as with other books. Here, readers are not just passive recipients but are able to create new meanings," Najwa said.
She also praised IIBF because book fairs help shape "a generation who create new meanings."
Najwa herself won the "Literacy Promoter" award at the IIBF, while author Pidi Baiq won the "Writer of the Year" award for his best-selling teen novels. Retno Hening Palupi was awarded "Book of the Year" for the fun and educational parenting book, "Happy Little Soul."
IIBF will run until Sunday and will offer various events, such as book discussions, seminars, competitions and art performances. Entrance is free.