ICFJ Trainee Builds Citizen Journalists Network that Exposes Religious Intolerance in Indonesia
Just hours after an attack on members of a minority Muslim sect in Indonesia, Jakarta-based freelance journalist and media trainer Andreas Harsono received a gruesome video. It came from one of his trainees, a citizen journalist in Banten Province, two hours from Jakarta. In it, a mob of angry young men took turns beating three people to death while policemen looked on.
Ever since Harsono took part in an ICFJ program “Faith in Media: Improving Coverage of Islam and Other Religions,” he has become a leading voice on religious violence against the Ahmadiya, a minority Muslim sect. In the program, funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, Muslim-world journalists teamed up with Western journalists for joint reporting projects.
Harsono teamed up with American journalist Jamila Trindle, then working for National Public Radio. Each produced a series of hard-hitting reports. Trindle's World Focus video report explored the repercussions of the rise in Islamic fundamentalism on the Ahmadiya. Harsono's four-part story "Mereka Yang Teraniaya dan Terusir" (“Those Who are Persecuted and Expelled”) ran in the Bahasa weekly Gatra magazine and on his blog. The series provided a comprehensive look at the struggles of the Ahmadiya as they fled their villages to escape persecution.
“More than a dozen Ahmadi activists took my writing classes,” Harsono says. “Now they form the core of a network of Ahmadi activists, monitoring and writing about the repression in Indonesia.”
Harsono says citizen journalists now play a big role in uncovering abuses. “Every citizen can be a journalist now, with smart-phones or through blogs,” he says. “And there is tremendous power in a new generation of informed citizens with the right tools to spread their messages.” Harsono also monitors the situation for Human Rights Watch.