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In West Kalimantan, citizen journalists get their say

  • Tena Carolina

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Thu, September 19, 2013 | 11:53 am
In West Kalimantan, citizen journalists get their say Ramshackle: Residents took to RuaiSMS to bemoan the state of their school in Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan. (Courtesy of RuaiTV)" border="0" height="383" width="510">Ramshackle: Residents took to RuaiSMS to bemoan the state of their school in Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan. (Courtesy of RuaiTV)

“Most Indonesian citizens are marginalized from the mainstream media,” journalist Harry Surjadi said at a recent discussion at the @america cultural center at Pacific Place in Kuningan, South Jakarta.

Local residents in Kapuas, West Kalimantan where he worked “certainly don’t get any information from the outside,” Harry said. “Even the reputable newspapers don’t make it up the Kapuas River, whereas people are facing issues in their everyday lives.”

For the last 18 months, the veteran former reporter for Kompas has been working with local broadcaster RuaiTV in Pontianak, the provincial capital, to develop RuaiSMS, a non-profit citizen journalist news service for local residents.

Approximately 200 people in several districts have been trained to send reports to RuaiSMS, although only 10 to 15 do so regularly, according to Harry. Most are farmers.

News from RuaiSMS citizen journalists, who receive about two days of training, is intended only for users and not for distribution to other media outlets, according to Harry.

The citizen journalists, who mostly use basic feature phones with no or limited Internet access, focus on simply reporting events and outcomes — not on discussions or interviews.

Citizen journalist: A RuaiSMS user readies to upload a report via his cellular phone. (Courtesy of RuaiSMS)Citizen journalist: A RuaiSMS user readies to upload a report via his cellular phone. (Courtesy of RuaiSMS)
“If there is an accident, they can report on the case as a witness at the crime scene — as a citizen journalist doing primary and secondary data collection to strengthen evidence,” Harry said.

This program is managed at the community level, which Harry, who founded the Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists, says will ensure that people produce news that will be important for readers.

Harry said that RuaiSMS runs on a desktop computer using a Kenyan-made freeware program that forwards SMS messages from the field to the smartphones of three editors at RuaiTV.

After a report passes muster and is proofread, the editors forward the message back to the core system, which then sends a broadcast SMS to registered users.

Another system, RuaiSwara, lets citizen journalists file stories using voicemail.

Both programs have helped local residents resolve social conflicts, Harry said, citing the example of the local residents of Kaupas Hulu and their struggle with oil palm company PT BPK.

For more than a decade, tensions had been high between the firm and residents, who took to RuaiSMS to allege that PT BPK had not fulfilled a legal obligation under a government “Plasma” corporate social responsibility program to give 10 percent of its concession over to residents for cultivation.

A meeting was finally convened between nine residents, seven local police officers, five employees of the firm and three of the firm’s private guards, he said.

The firm agreed to give the land to the villagers. All from a text message.

At work: Residents of Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan, received about two days of training to become citizen journalists. (Courtesy of RuaiTV)

Ramshackle: Residents took to RuaiSMS to bemoan the state of their school in Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan. (Courtesy of RuaiTV)

'€œMost Indonesian citizens are marginalized from the mainstream media,'€ journalist Harry Surjadi said at a recent discussion at the @america cultural center at Pacific Place in Kuningan, South Jakarta.

Local residents in Kapuas, West Kalimantan where he worked '€œcertainly don'€™t get any information from the outside,'€ Harry said. '€œEven the reputable newspapers don'€™t make it up the Kapuas River, whereas people are facing issues in their everyday lives.'€

For the last 18 months, the veteran former reporter for Kompas has been working with local broadcaster RuaiTV in Pontianak, the provincial capital, to develop RuaiSMS, a non-profit citizen journalist news service for local residents.

Approximately 200 people in several districts have been trained to send reports to RuaiSMS, although only 10 to 15 do so regularly, according to Harry. Most are farmers.

News from RuaiSMS citizen journalists, who receive about two days of training, is intended only for users and not for distribution to other media outlets, according to Harry.

The citizen journalists, who mostly use basic feature phones with no or limited Internet access, focus on simply reporting events and outcomes '€” not on discussions or interviews.

Citizen journalist: A RuaiSMS user readies to upload a report via his cellular phone. (Courtesy of RuaiSMS)Citizen journalist: A RuaiSMS user readies to upload a report via his cellular phone. (Courtesy of RuaiSMS)
'€œIf there is an accident, they can report on the case as a witness at the crime scene '€” as a citizen journalist doing primary and secondary data collection to strengthen evidence,'€ Harry said.

This program is managed at the community level, which Harry, who founded the Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists, says will ensure that people produce news that will be important for readers.

Harry said that RuaiSMS runs on a desktop computer using a Kenyan-made freeware program that forwards SMS messages from the field to the smartphones of three editors at RuaiTV.

After a report passes muster and is proofread, the editors forward the message back to the core system, which then sends a broadcast SMS to registered users.

Another system, RuaiSwara, lets citizen journalists file stories using voicemail.

Both programs have helped local residents resolve social conflicts, Harry said, citing the example of the local residents of Kaupas Hulu and their struggle with oil palm company PT BPK.

For more than a decade, tensions had been high between the firm and residents, who took to RuaiSMS to allege that PT BPK had not fulfilled a legal obligation under a government '€œPlasma'€ corporate social responsibility program to give 10 percent of its concession over to residents for cultivation.

A meeting was finally convened between nine residents, seven local police officers, five employees of the firm and three of the firm'€™s private guards, he said.

The firm agreed to give the land to the villagers. All from a text message.

At work: Residents of Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan, received about two days of training to become citizen journalists. (Courtesy of RuaiTV)At work: Residents of Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan, received about two days of training to become citizen journalists. (Courtesy of RuaiTV)
Separately, officials at SDN 6 Nanga Nuar elementary school in Kapuas Hulu took to RuaiSMS to broadcast that they had only three classrooms for 130 students.

Harry said that the story was spread by RuaiSMS until it reached a person who could do something.

'€œThe head of the [regency education] agency immediately contacted the district head, and the local government agreed to build a new building in which appropriate and sufficient for its elementary school.'€

Just through a text message.

Harry said that RuaiSMS has given a voice to people in remote villages with little access to the larger community, such as Adrianus, one of the residents of Kaupas Hulu.

'€œ'€™Before we used machetes'€™,'€ Adrianus said according to Harry. '€œ'€™Now we can use cell phones.'€™'€

The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post. Watch the talk at atamerica.or.id or visit ruaitv.co.id to learn more about RuaiSMS.

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