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Women’s roles downplayed by Indonesian media: Survey

Victims for media: Women refugees rest at temporary evacuation centre following another eruption of Mount Merapi on November 5, 2010, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. A report by the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) found women were frequently depicted in the news as victims. 

For the most part, women in Indonesia only ever seem to make the headlines for their role as a famous person’s relative, a victim or a criminal, a reporters’ guild says. In a study carried out between July and September last year, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) looked for mention of female news sources in seven Indonesian-language dailies.

“These are the three types of women who often appear in the seven daily papers’ news reports,” Rach Alida Bahaweres, the AJI coordinator for women’s issues, said at a public discussion last month. The newspapers Kompas, Koran Tempo, Republika, Media Indonesia, Suara Pembaruan, Warta Kota and Indo Pos were studied.

The Jakarta Globe has reported:

Rach said the finding corresponded to that from a similar study between January and March 2009, which trawled for mentions of female legislators in news reports in The Jakarta Post, Kompas, Koran Tempo, Republika and Media Indonesia.

The earlier study showed that despite the increased number of women at the House of Representatives, most of whom were campaigning for re-election at the time, the legislators themselves were only mentioned an average of three times a month in each paper, less than a tenth of total coverage devoted to women in the House.

Ninety percent of that coverage was focused in the planned increase in the quota for women at the House. The rest of the coverage touched on elements of the female legislators’ campaign platforms.

“The media hardly quotes women as news sources in its reports, and this situation happens not just in political issues but also in other issues,” Rach said. “Women often appear on news reports only when they’re victims, such as in sexual harassment cases.”

Ignatius Haryanto, a media analyst, agreed, saying the problem was even more acute in television news reporting, which only ever seemed to quote women as a way of dramatizing a report, especially in coverage of natural disasters. “The more they cry, the better,” he said.

“That’s the logic of a television news report. They always need drama.” He added journalists often mistakenly believed that by interviewing grieving women who had lost their children or husbands in a disaster, they were paying more attention to women.

In the case of coverage of women in power, Ignatius urged women’s rights groups to push for better media representation of these women by highlighting positive examples of how they performed better than their male counterparts. “News organizations should be fair and allow the female legislators or leaders to prove their worth, even those with backgrounds as celebrities,” he said.

Media organizations should consider quoting more female sources to balance out appearances by males in media reports, giving a variety of perspectives to their audience, he said. News outlets should also look inside their own organizations and consider how engaging more female editors could influence their own editorial policies, Ignatius said.

The discussion concluded with an awards ceremony to honor news organizations and journalists for their extensive coverage of women’s issues.

Dwi Faiz, a program coordinator from UN Women, which supported the Swara Sarasvati 2010 awards, said promoting women’s causes required the help of a media system that allowed them to have their voices heard fairly. “The media plays an important role in this case,” she said. However, the fact that only a handful of media outlets qualified for the award poses a challenge in trying to bring women’s issues into the media spotlight, she added.

Date posted: January 8, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 156