Dear Mass Media, let’s do DRR Campaign

Indonesia which its territory composed of cluster of islands has huge risks and hazards potential. This condition is motivated by geographical and topographical as well as demographics factors. Facing this reality, the Government of Indonesia faces many challenges in terms of disaster management. One of the challenges is the lack of capacity of the people living in disaster-prone areas. Many people do not realize the risks of disaster that could affect their lives and the dynamics of theirs.

The Indonesian government with the support of donor agencies, international institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, has trained people to raise their awareness of the importance of building resilience towards disasters. Such efforts cannot be done optimally because of the large population and vast geographic regions of Indonesia.

Meanwhile, disaster management in Indonesia cannot be separated from the role of three (3) fundamental elements, namely the government (government sector), civil society (civil society), and industry/business world (private sector). Article 28 of Law Number 24 of 2007 on Disaster Management states that business world or business organizations get the chance in the implementation of disaster management either individually or jointly with other parties. In this context, the media can be seen as an element of the business world. Therefore, the media is expected to also contribute to disaster management in Indonesia. Their main role or contribution can be news or articles published in the media, either it is printed, in electronic, as well as online form.

However, related to the tendency of the current news, media focuses more on the catastrophic events. There is an assumption which underlying that “bad news is good news”. From BNPB and BPBD, both at the provincial and district/city level, as the organizer or agents of disaster relief or actor, the paradigm of disaster risk reduction (DRR) is a priority in disaster management strategy. DRR media attention is still lack. Ahmad Arif Similarly expressed in the Journalism Article of Disaster in Indonesia: Sacred Duty, Blackened Practice (2011) that disaster mitigation has not become a trend in the news media. On the other hand, in the guide for journalists, published by UNISDR (2011) Disaster through a Different Lens noted that disaster risk reduction is everybody’s business. This indicates that the DRR should receive more attention for the media in Indonesia.

In addition, UNISDR sees collaboration as an important step in the actualization of the development of community resilience towards disaster. In this position, the media should be able to understand that society need to be educated. Media have broad access to information, knowledge, or even news about disaster. However, they still often found that the DRR has not become the media attention as their news material.

Mass Media and Disaster Management Indonesia

Related with the news, there is still a mistake made by the media in reporting the disaster. The error can be caused because by the perpetrators of the media or journalists who do not understand or do not have the knowledge, for example about the volcano, and so forth. This may be new problems that must be resolved or clarified by the disaster management agents, such as BNPB or BPBDs both at the provincial, district, or city. Therefore, the stock of knowledge about the disaster that is owned by the journalists who will be covering catastrophic events become important when they should be in the field.

It is one great hope on the media because the media has a very important role in “socializing”  not only the events of the disaster, but also disaster risk reduction (DRR) and rehabilitation and reconstruction. The government, in this case BPBD and BNPB and provincial / district / city need the support from media as one of the agents that can disseminate information or news of disaster as well as the knowledge and influence society. It has been mentioned at the outset that the main role or contribution of media to the news or articles published in the media, either it is printed, electronic, as well as online form. The media has a role which is actually very broad and strategic. Media is expected to build public awareness or public, especially regarding the reduction paradigm DRR or understanding in facing threat or situation during the disaster.

Paradigm of DRR mainstreaming is important because eventually people are able to recognize risks or disasters that are around the community resilience towards disaster can be realized. Meanwhile, the strategic role lies in the ability of the media in the disseminating news or information regarding disaster, making it accessible to people everywhere. The media covers in the area of print media, such as newspapers, and electronics, such as television, radio, and online.

So far, the government is constrained by the resource to disseminate news or disaster information to the public. However, the government’s efforts continue to be made along with the other elements, particularly the media. UNISDR (2011) mentions that another role of the media is that the media could influence the political decisions, and change people’s behavior and thus save lives. While Haddow (2009) says that communication is the main success in mitigation, preparedness, response and disaster rehabilitation. Therefore, the dissemination of accurate information from the media to the public, relevant government agencies, community leaders reduce risk, save lives and property.

Besides of the news about DRR, the media has been duly able to provide information related to the disaster precisely and accurately. Therefore, people who are in the disaster area can understand and prepare for what should be done to avoid potential disasters that may occur. Public awareness becomes common hope for the majority of Indonesian people who live in the midst of disaster potential and risk.

However, the media also need to get the support of the organizers of the government disaster management, either it is the access to data and disaster information. In a seminar of BNPB and Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC) with the theme “Enhancing Media Contribution to Disaster Risk Reduction”, Hidetomi Oi from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) revealed that government support for the media within the framework of realizing public awareness, especially DRR is very important for the countries with dense population and living in risk areas, like Indonesia.

In connection with growing discourse of disaster education or awareness by the media, this perspective is very relevant and needs to be conducted. From BNPB as an agent, a paradigm of DRR becomes a priority in disaster management strategy. Public awareness is not limited to recognizing the potential or risk disaster, but comprehensively knowing about disaster management.

In the coverage of the disaster, the media often becomes a leader in providing news to the public, In the coverage of the disaster, the media often becomes a leader in providing news to the public, just like what happened in Japan, Nippon Hoso Kyokai, or NHK is a television station that has been authorized by the Government of Japan in the dissemination of news and information about disaster management to the community. NHK also seeks to motivate people to improve and add knowledge about the disaster. Upgrading knowledge about disasters and continuous efforts should be disseminated to the public.

On the other hand, the United States has the Emergency Alert System (EAS), a system developed by the government to involve multiple media to relay information about catastrophic events as early as possible. Meanwhile, Indonesia has developed inter-agency cooperation both government (BNPB, BMKG, Ministry of communication and information technology, LIPI), UNESCO, and the Broadcasting Institute Indonesia, particularly radio and television, in building the system as a chain of early warning which can directly access to the public,

Partnership Challenges with Media

This discussion is more focused on government challenges discourse, in this case BNPB or BPBD in building partnerships with the media. Partnerships are very important because the media is very helpful in the disseminating the information or knowledge as well as news of the disaster. In addition, government resources in providing access to public information is still very limited.

The government has the paradigm of DRR as mainstreaming the disaster management, but it cannot ‘force’ the media to push it to put the news in the media. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) is an issue that is considered less ‘sexy’ by the media. It is therefore important for the government to repackage information about the DRR, so it can attract the attention of the media. In the media, there are terms that can be used as an indicator to show whether the information is interesting or not. The indicator is TRUTH and scum. TRUTH = topical, relevant, unusual, trouble, human interest. SCUM = sex, celebrity, unusual, money. The media will usually be more keen to uncover the news related to the SCUM. Here, it is the challenge for the government to make DRR and small scale disaster become interesting to the society.

At a workshop organized by UNISDR and Reuters with the theme Towards a New Approach to Disasters from Consequences to Causes Covering Disasters from a Disaster Risk Reduction Perspective, it is acknowledged that the Governments in Asian countries share the challenge of building a partnership with the media. The results of discussions of representatives of government agencies in the field of disaster mention a few things that become a challenge in building partnerships with the media, such as:

  • The capacity of governments (institutions) is inadequate in building relationships with the media or the provision of training for the media.
  • Steps how to attract media attention and to make the media willing to cooperate.
  • The gap between the information from the government to what is reported in the media.
  • Create a good press release draft.
  • How to package information as attractive as possible to catch the attention from media to cover the news.

In responding these challenges, it is better for the Government agencies to undertake several initiative steps so that the messages related to DRR or disastrous events both small scale can be covered by the media. Here are some steps that can be taken related to building partnerships with media:

  • Not many reporters learn about the definition or the importance of DRR, so knowledge and shared perspectives are very helpful to add interest to the DRR journalists. The governments can facilitate this training.
  • Workshop/round-table discussions. These activities can improve understanding between the government and the media regarding the dissemination of information and knowledge DRR and disaster events both small and large scale.
  • Field trips. Facilitating journalists to participate in any disaster management conducted by the relevant government agencies to open up the perspectives on disasters and the importance of DRR. Journalists can look more closely at the disaster itself and the disaster management by relevant institutions.
  • Key contact. Not all journalists have the same interests of the DRR, so it’s important to know who are the journalist to cooperate in reporting or writing about DRR.
  • Lunch/social get together. This step is a personal and social approach which is positive and informal to build communication and by officials or government staff to the media.
  • National disaster day. Momentum of the national day of DRR can be used to attract the attention

Besides that, within the framework to address the needs of the media, disaster management agent (for example officials from BPBD and BNPB) is expected to place himself as a journalist. It’s very important to know the needs of the information that can later be processed into news. The government in this case in the field of public relations should not only engage in activities to provide the required information or action dimension but also has the information about how the media work or knowledge dimension (Yoon, 2005). Partnerships can be built quickly if the two sides are both providing ‘benefits’ which are related to disaster. Here are some questions that are required by the reporter for disaster news, such as:

  • How many people are killed, injured or displaced?
  • Are there people from my area becoming a victim?
  • Does a journalist have to be sent to disaster areas? If so, is the location far and how much does it cost to go there?
  • Do readers would be interested in a story that will be delivered?
  • What other related news in the disaster area at the time?
  • By covering the story, will there be an award?

Responding to what is required by the media, Center of Data, Information and Public Relations BNPB has sought to establish partnerships with the media. The annual work program of Data, Information, and Public Relations BNPB has activities to support this partnership, such as BNPB website that provides the latest map or disaster information, communication forum of journalists and press conferences. Additionally, Center of Data, Information and Public Relations BNPB also provides updates and information needed by the media. Those data and information are disseminated as often as possible through mobile phone to reporters. Conducted small survey associated with the dissemination of information through the blackberry network, and the survey results indicate a very positive thing from the media. The survey results can be found in the appendix.

The role of media in the field of disaster cannot be separated from a partnership built by the government and relevant stakeholders. On one side, the quality of government resources need to be established and developed. On the other hand, a partnership with the media become a positive step in building a system of disaster management in Indonesia.

There are some final notes on the seminar of Enhancing Media Contribution to Disaster Risk Reduction, such as the media has a role to disseminate news or information about the history of disaster. It is very beneficial for future generations to learn about the history and disaster management. Second, media does not only broadcast large-scale disasters but also small scale ones that occurred in Indonesia. This process will build awareness among the public about the risks of disaster in the vicinity. Third, improving the technology, skills and knowledge related to coverage of the disaster is a long process but it is worth it toward media to give contribution to disaster risk reduction and build awareness among citizens.

(English version of the article entitled ‘Ayo Media Massa, Kampanyekan PRB)

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