Journalism in the Face of a Disaster in Indonesia

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PALU, Indonesia — On Sept. 28, a deadly tsunami, a series of earthquakes and soil liquefaction hit Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province. More than 2,000 people have died and about 4,400 Indonesians were injured from the horrific disaster. Aside from the casualties, one of the worst results from the tsunami was the destruction of newspaper and tv stations. The journalism industry in the city of Palu took a hit in the aftermath of the tsunami, but a local Indonesian journalist named Yardin Hasan has created a start-up news agency to help heal the community. Although the tsunami was disastrous, journalism in the face of a disaster in Indonesia proves how powerful storytelling can be.

Effects of the Tsunami

Hasan was injured after the tsunami hit his hometown of Palu and barely survived. He was much luckier than other Indonesians affected by the disaster. About 170,000 people are still homeless and thousands of others are barely scraping by in makeshift tents after their homes were destroyed. Those receiving humanitarian aid rely on government funding; however, it will take about three years and $2.8 billion to fully recover.

Many journalists in surrounding areas either died from the tsunami, were seriously injured or lost their homes and places of work. Although mainstream media outlets reported on this disaster when it initially occurred, the following months were more silent. Hasan then teamed up with local Indonesian journalists to start a news agency that solely focuses on news surrounding the tsunami. The name of this news agency is Kabar Sulteng Bangkit, which means “news of reviving Central Sulawesi.”

Kabar Sulteng Bangkit

Kabar Sulteng Bangkit (KSB), the first disaster news service in Indonesia, aims to tell the stories of survivors. Many in the Central Sulawesi province are still struggling and want their stories to be known beyond the Palu community, especially since most mainstream news outlets have neglected to tell them. Journalists behind this news agency have focused on not just telling heartbreaking stories or publishing homes that have been destroyed and dead bodies. Their approach has been to share stories of survivors who need humanitarian aid and to explain government policies to those who are not informed in the Palu community.

One local journalist named Firmansyah Syamsi, who works with global media NGO Internews, which helped fund KSB’s initial start-up costs, further explains this approach. “Usually, after disaster, the kind of news that is published especially in Indonesia is just about blood and victims being put on display,” he said. “That really violates journalistic ethics. So we promote the perspective of victims, so that victims feel they are heard.” Sharing the stories of the survivors helps people to understand what is really going on in an area after a disaster like this.

Looking Ahead

The effects of the tsunami, earthquakes and soil liquefaction proved to be horrific for the country of Indonesia. Months after the disaster, thousands are still injured and struggling to survive. A full recovery will take massive amounts of money and a few years. For the time being, journalists are helping repair the Palu community. By making sure survivors voices are heard and informing the community of government policies, they have proven how positive journalism can be in the face of a disaster. KSB highlights how important the work journalists do for those in Indonesia and beyond.

Maddison Hines

Photo: Flickr

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