Terrorism and Television

August 23, 2009

Qusthan Abqary

We watched almost 48 hours breaking news which showing a non stop live report from the Beji village, Temanggung, Central Java during Detachment 88, the police’s special counterterrorism squad, cracked down one terrorist’s safe house.

This television coverage is over excessive and counter productive regarding to terrorist raids. Even National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri said, “However apparently because of the aggressive media coverage the terrorists managed to flee,” (The Jakarta Post, “Was it Noordin? Body remains unidentified”, August 9, 2009).

If the television coverage was not as aggressive as we watched several days ago, the result might be different. It is still fresh in our memory how was the raid of terrorist in Batu, Malang, East Java which only covered by one leading television for several hours; stands symmetrically with the killed of Dr. Azahari – Noordin M. Top’s lecturer.

I am not saying that the one and only factor which determine the successfulness of terrorist raids depending on the volume of media coverage. Yet the media coverage might give unexpected impacts to the works of authorities even larger to the national security.

Sirikit Syah showed how the television coverage were “mad”, “labeling”,  “stereotyping”, “presumption of guilt”, “trial by the media”, “naming the bombers without proper investigation”, and others after the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton bombings (The Jakarta Post, “Jakarta bombings and the presumption of guilt”, July 26, 2009).

The question arises: does television have to base on one or several epistemological assumptions during the reporting activities? I think television has to base on several epistemological assumptions without ignoring the validity of news resources.

We are proud enough when television used some scientific methods like polling, quick count, or exit poll before-, during-, and after- the national elections in spite the fact that it is debatable. Unlike in the elections, terrorist crack down in Beji was reported kill Noordin M. Top by the television without considering checks and balances, cover all sides, and DNA tests. Moreover, the flood of television’s news got change and more careful after the press conference done by National Police Chief.

There is no tolerance for breaking news to inform the public about uncertain truth. Television should be realized that their consumers would not like to be like the water on a taro leaf. This is the different between media and expertise. On the one hand, it is acceptable if one expert like former Chief of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) Dr. Hendro Priyono who previously in the morning of August 8, 2009 believe the man was Noordin M. Top (Breaking News, Metro TV) but then doubt it several hours later regarding the fact that “only one body was found and the body was said to be Noordin” (The Jakarta Post, “Noordin’s identity: Children undergo DNA testing,” August, 10, 2009).

On the other hand, it is very cruel if television shows some information base on hear say (even from the valid sources) and then change the “news truth” latter after there is another fresh fact. Hear say is not news. The reporters should know the difference between TV’s journalism with citizen journalism.

What do the floods of this uncertain information stand for? Television never explains about these things. In a nutshell, it is worth to bear in mind one statement from French leading sociologist Pierre Bourdieu: “In short, stories are pushed on viewers because they are pushed on the producers; and they are pushed on producers by competition with other producers. This sort of cross pressure that journalists force on each other generates a whole series of consequences that translates into programming choices, into absences and presences.” (Pierre Bourdieu, On Television, p. 28).

Tentang Penulis

Qusthan Abqary - I am a lecturer and teach some subjects such as Ethics and Social Awareness, Corporate Governance and Ethics, Business Ethics, Critical and Creative Thinking and others. My research interests are political philosophy, ethics, peace, and war.

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