International Press Institute chairman Markus Spillman. (JG Photo/Jayanty Nada Shofa)

The Press Up Against It in Worsening Media Climate


DECEMBER 12, 2019

Jakarta. The press is up against it in a worsening media climate that has seriously threatened freedom of expression in Indonesia and the rest of the world.

International Press Institute (IPI) chairman Markus Spillmann said journalists should be allowed to carry out their duty professionally without having their personal integrity and safety threatened.

Press freedom, however, is globally on the decline following several dramatic changes in how information is produced and consumed.

Spillmann said there has been a gradual loss of public trust caused by unethical practices in journalism, including the spreading of hoaxes.

"Everybody is now able to write and share news through social media. Digitalization has weakened the role, and monopoly, of journalism," the former Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung editor-in-chief said in a recent interview with the Jakarta Globe.

The current political landscape has also prevented the media from criticizing the government, often through harassment by the military. Cyberbullying by readers provoked by hoaxes has also meant journalists now live in a climate of fear.

International bodies, including Asean and IPI, have taken several key initiatives to return journalism to its rightful position in the public flow of information.

Spillmann attended a freedom of expression consultation with Asean in Bali on Tuesday as a guest speaker, after which he said the organization will soon offer recommendations on the issue that will allow media in Asean member states to spread accurate, factual information with ease.

As the oldest NGO in the world that fights for press freedom, IPI also actively negotiates the release of imprisoned journalists with their governments.

The organization underlines the importance of transparency and journalistic ethics and standards to get the public to trust the media again.

"Digitalization brings with it a democratization of information. The crucial point is to know who stands behind the information. Even citizen journalists have to fulfill ethical norms. There has to be thorough fact-checking and transparency of the structure behind the received information," Spillmann said.

He also said that improvement in media literacy can also act as a safeguard against inaccurate and biased information.