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Citizen Journalism: Making Important Matters Interesting

Yerry Borang From EngageMedia discussing with participants. Photo by Tri Irwanda

Translated from a report in Bahasa Indonesia by Tri Irwanda, Media and Data Consultant of Rumah Cemara.

Rumah Cemara is a non-profit organisation established in Indonesia in 2003. Their main goal is to improve the quality of life of a targeted group of key people, so they can live without stigma or discrimination, have equal access to quality health services, and they are protected under right-based laws and have opportunities for development.

Citizen Journalism: Making Important Matters Interesting

“When people learn that I’m HIV positive, the response I receive is sometimes funny. For example,: ‘Oh thank goodness… you have repented,’ said the woman who opened the conversation.

“I just laughed. Because she thought women like me cannot get HIV. In fact, long before I was diagnosed with HIV, I’ve been like this,” continued the woman while holding her veil.

The veiled woman is Asti Septiana (48), from Yogyakarta. Asti, along with nine other people took part in a Citizen Journalism Workshop organised by Rumah Cemara in Denpasar from 24 to 27 July 2018.

“I used to write short stories. Fiction. I am very interested in joining the workshop. Alhamdulillah, I passed the selection,” she said, smiling.

Two years ago, she compiled a selection of her writings in a book. The book, Mashed Potatoes, Enjoying Life Without Regrets tells about her life as a woman living with HIV in Indonesia.

“Later, I wanted to continue to write like a journalist. In this way, I can reveal facts about HIV/AIDS and society,” she continued.

The Denpasar workshop contained a series of similar activities that took place earlier in Belitung (1014 July) and in Jayapura (1720 July). One aim of the activity was to invite activists living with HIV/AIDS along with people from other communities to develop their journalistic and videography skills.

In collaboration with UNAIDS, the workshop included facilitators from the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Bandung and EngageMedia’s Yogyakarta team. Twenty-nine participants engaged in a series of activities. They were from 13 provinces, namely Riau, Riau Islands, Bangka Belitung, Bengkulu, West Java, Banten, Yogyakarta, Bali, Southeast Sulawesi, North Sulawesi, North Maluku, West Papua, and Papua.

At each workshop, the facilitators emphasised that HIV/AIDS is an important issue to consider. The challenge facing participants is to find out what’s important to bring awareness to the public. Citizen journalism can be the right vehicle to answer that challenge.

Patri Handoyo, Manager of Media and Data of Rumah Cemara said, “We divided the design of the activities into three regions of Indonesia, namely, west, central, and east. All participants have passed a selection process.

“We publicly announced about this activity through the website and social media. Interested people filled out a questionnaire. From the answers, we assessed the prospective participants,” he said.

According to him, over 110 people signed up. The committee, he continued, needed to do a selection because the maximum quota in each region was 10 participants. “That way, we hope that they will seriously become citizen journalists who will actively take part in HIV/AIDS journalism according to their capacity.”

Training to become a journalist for the community

Writing, let alone writing like a journalist, is difficult. It needs constant practice. This is the view of Armandho CB Rumpaidus (23), a participant from Jayapura. He wrote a sentence. A moment later, he changed it again. While writing and editing paragraph by paragraph, occasionally he sipped from his cup of coffee.

“I will continue to write for my blog; let it not be empty,” said the Cendrawasih University student. “I hope to learn about more writing techniques not taught in my university. I have got the basics.”

Armandho also claimed to learn skills in making videos. For him, the workshop made him excited about creating content for his YouTube channel.

“Beyond that, I am now more aware of HIV/AIDS. At this workshop, there are also friends who have HIV. I can interact with them as usual.”

With the opportunity he gets, he will tell people to understand more about HIV/AIDS. “People should no longer stigmatize our colleagues living with HIV!”

The same spirit was shown by Linda Chayawati, a participant from Pangkal Pinang. She was eager to compile a video storyboard that she would eventually make. Together with other participants, she attached a row of papers containing a series of stories on the wall of the room, listening to the facilitator’s instructions.

The meeting room, measuring about 8 x 10 meters, became a class of learning. They plastered small pieces of paper containing colourful storyboards from participants on the sides of the walls. In some parts, they put up flip chart sheets. These listed important notes discussed at the workshop.

“My father was HIV positive before my birth. They declared me HIV positive when I was 15 years old. That also means I did not know about this since my birth,” said the 21-year-old girl when introducing herself to the other participants.

“I am motivated to join this event. I want to say through my social media channel that people having HIV is not the end of everything,” she spoke aloud.

She continued, saying that a healthy lifestyle and antiretroviral (ARV) therapy has kept her healthy. “I can still work in my family’s shop. No problem.”

The benefit of ARV drug is one topic that many workshop participants discussed. The drug does not remove HIV from a person’s body, but it can suppress its proliferation. By diligently taking ARVs, people with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) can live healthy lives.

Commitment to abide by ARV therapy was presented by Zackura (34). As a transgender woman from Sorong, she is hoping to be an example for her colleagues in following ARV therapy. The salon where she works is often a place to gather.

“I have a strong commitment. I want to write in social media about the importance of ARVs for people living with HIV.” During the citizen journalism workshop, the participants practiced writing stories and making videos. They discussed with the facilitator every day from morning till night, tirelessly.

They are a community who should take a role in suppressing the proliferation of HIV/AIDS. Their work is worth expecting, like an oasis in the middle of dry or sensational news from mainstream media.

We hope they become citizens who have the spirit of journalism in voicing the importance of “Indonesia without stigma.”

Watch an interview with Eric Arfianto, a Media Officer of Rumah Cemara, Bandung, Indonesia. Rumah Cemara is working with marginalised groups and people living with HIV so they can live without stigma or discrimination.

About the author

Yerry Borang is EngageMedia’s engagement and learning specialist. You may follow his writing and other posts on digital rights and video for change by subscribing to our mailing list.

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