AJI calls for social media ethics code
The burgeoning social media have posed new challenges for Internet-savvy journalists: can online sources be trusted and can they express their opinions freely via blogs and tweets?
Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) advocacy coordinator Margiyono said he was concerned that journalists have “mistakenly” used social media and inadvertently violated journalistic ethics.
“Some journalists are using Twitter to endorse products or to support politicians,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a recent Ford Foundation aid program launch in Jakarta. Many Indonesian journalists, he added, had begun acting like public relations officers, writing too much about what they think on the Internet.
He called on Indonesian media outlets to clearly regulate the use of social media for their employees.
A 2009 Indonesian Press Council survey found at least 442 ethics violations involving social media. The council recorded at least 27 ethics violations committed by online news outlets between January and May this year.
Indonesia is home to more than five million Twitter users, one of the largest populations in Asia. Other social networking sites such as Facebook and Google+ are also widely used.
Journalists, increasingly dependent on technology, are among the millions of Indonesian Twitter users. But not all media companies have specific rules about using social media.
Puspita Ayu, a journalist from Radio of the Republic of Indonesia, said she blogged and tweeted, but never about politics. “My friends often write about political issues on their Twitter accounts,” she said.
She added that there was no social media policy in her office and employees were free to write about anything online.
Indra Haryono, of Indonesia Finance Today, said his company had a social media policy: “We cannot write on any topics in social media,” he said without elaborating.
Wicaksono, a prolific blogger and head of the digital content production division of Tempo Group,
said a social media policy was important for every media company, as it could guide journalists’ online behavior.
Despite this, he said that Tempo Group did not have a written policy on social media and that journalists could write freely on their social media accounts.
“I have blog and Twitter accounts and I can write anything I want about technology, progress of social media, personal life and sometimes politics,” he said.
The question is how much can journalists express their opinions about products or politics on their personal accounts?
Margioyono said he knew that journalists had the right to give their two cents, but there had to be clear lines that could not be crossed. “We cannot deny the political rights of citizens, including journalists.”
According to the national code of journalistic ethics, journalists are not allowed to participate in election campaigns while employed as reporters. The code also clearly says that journalists must be independent, impartial and without malicious intent.
He said that journalists might still be allowed to express political views, but they should ensure that their reporting was objective and balanced. “Journalists can engage in politics as long as they don’t write about politics,” he said.
Margiyono said social media was sometimes used as an alternative media when journalists wanted to voice their personal opinions about issues after writing objectively about those issues in their respective media institutions.
Indonesian Twitter users were abuzz with gossip of rogue politicians and celebrities. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recently raised concerns over the use of BlackBerry messenger as a news source in the graft scandals plaguing his Democratic Party.
The president said “invisible hands” had spread text messages containing libelous statements and false allegations with the intention of ruining the party’s reputation. He said that the party had become a foil for the media and the victim of an unhealthy political climate over the past two months.
Margiyono said journalists could use social media as news sources as long as the sources were verified. (drs)