Newspaper Reports Change Local Government Policies

Oct 92008

There are 14 hospitals in Pekanbaru City (Riau Province), Sumatera Island, Indonesia. Six of them have no waste water treatment facilities. All the untreated waste water from those hospitals streams out to city drain and then to the river. And seven hospitals have no incinerators to burn medical wastes. They dump all medical wastes to public waste dump site. How did media change the government policies on hospital wastes?

There are 14 hospitals in Pekanbaru City (Riau Province), Sumatera Island, Indonesia. Six of them have no waste water treatment facilities. All the untreated waste water from those hospitals streams out to city drain and then to the river. And seven hospitals have no incinerators to burn medical wastes. They dump all medical wastes to public waste dump site.

Tribun Pekanbaru published two stories about hospital wastes with one picture of the city drain out side of Zainab Hospital full of used syringes floating (17 March 2008, page 9). Zainab Hospital, a private owned hospital, has neither waste water treatment facility nor incinerator.

Naning Nutriana, one of participants on environmental journalism training workshop in Pekanbaru, wrote the stories in Green City section, an environmental section in Tribun Pekanbaru Daily. M Hanshardi, a participant of the environmental journalism training workshop for editors, was the editor responsible to manage the new environmental section.

On 13 April 2008, Riau Pos published three hospital waste stories in one page. Andi Noviriyanti, another trainee of the environmental journalism training workshop for reporters, wrote two stories. One of the three was a story of the owner of the Zainab Hospital. And Makruf Siregar, a staff of Pekanbaru environmental protection agency, wrote an article focused on hospital waste water condition in Pekanbaru.

After the last reports, Noviriyanti has to negotiate with her editors to continue coverage on hospital wastes. She said that there was resistance from editors since the reports will criticize the government and hospital owners. She has to convince her editors that the hospital wastes topic was very important to cover.

Finally, on 20 April 2008, Riau Pos published a special report on hospital wastes in three pages. Total there were 11 multi-angles headlines and four photos. One of the headlines was written by Jarir Amrun, the editor who also joined the training workshop for editors.

The most important impact was those stories changed the local government policies and pushed the hospitals to comply with regulations. One of the photos put in Riau Pos was the same spot of city drain but no syringes floating.

“The city drain was clean. No syringes floating anymore after we published the first report,” said Noviriyanti, who got a master degree on journalism.

Local government through its authority institution, Bapedalda (Local Environmental Impact Management Agency) inspected hospitals that mentioned in the stories have no waste water treatment facilities and issued warning letters. Bapedalda also did a hospital waste management briefing for hospital management in Pekanbaru.

“Zainab hospital is now building its waste water treatment facility,” told Noviriyanti in an interview on 21 August 2008.

Noviriyanti said that the local government thanked Riau Pos for the reports. One of the hospitals was owned by the respected senior citizen in Riau. It made Bapedalda or local government was in an awkward position if they have to notify that his hospital violated the environmental regulations. But, after the cases were on newspaper, Bapedalda/local government warned him inoffensively.

Even the owner of Lancang Kuning hospital gave appreciation Riau Pos’ CEO for the balance coverage.

She frankly said that she motivated to cover hospital waste cases after joined the environmental journalism training workshop. “I just need to follow steps that explained in the workshop although it was not an easy task,” said Noviriyanti who manages “Save the Earth,” an environmental section in Riau Pos.

She has to be very “softly” asking her key sources, especially hospital owners, for interviews. “I approached them through religious consciousness or Islamic religious consciousness of the hospital owners. It is a sin doing business that makes other people suffering,” told her experiences in approaching her sources.

She felt satisfied of her works. She said that she got how environmental journalism could help make a better world or better environment by push governments and businesses to change their behaviors of polluting the environment.

She said that she will continue writing environmental stories that changing policy more environmental friendly.