Indonesian seminarians become journalists

Indonesian seminarians are being provided with an additional set of skills – and not ones you’d necessarily expect.

A Catholic group in Indonesia’s conflict-torn Papua province is teaching the seminarians to report on events in remote areas where there is limited access for journalists.

Rights activists often criticise Indonesia’s mainstream media for reporting news based on the claims of the government and security forces but rarely accommodating Papuan voices.

The Franciscans’ Secretariat for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation training drew 28 seminarians (pictured) from across Indonesia. Some will spend their pastoral year in parishes in remote areas.

The seminarians were instructed in new evangelisation through social media, news and feature writing techniques, digital security and evangelisation through short videos.

Yuliana Langowuyo, the secretariat’s executive director and one of the instructors, said the training targeted Indonesian seminarians because of their vital role in the Papuan context.

They carry out their usual pastoral duties and are also expected to speak out on social issues in remote areas where access is difficult.

“They are our mainstay. We can get primary information from them, including a comparison with information from the authorities and from pro-government media.

“So far I have focused only on reflecting on those issues in the context of my vocation. Now it helps me to make these problems a concern of many people by writing about them.

“If we wait for journalists to reach remote areas, then the narrative of injustice and other humanitarian problems that occur in communities will not be able to reach the public, and policy advocacy will be more difficult.”

One of the seminarians says although the time for the training was short, he found it very helpful to be able to identify issues in society that are important, have a broad impact and need to be known by many people.

As an example of the problems of education, health and malnutrition in his diocese, he says: “This training showed me how to provide good, precise, accurate and understandable information for many people.”

Papua has been beset by conflict since becoming part of Indonesia in 1969, with continued resistance from armed pro-independence groups.

In the Press Freedom Index released by Indonesia’s Press Council in January, Papua was in the “somewhat free” category with a score of 68.87 and ranked 33rd out of 34 provinces.

The Indonesian government continues to impose restrictions on foreign journalists visiting the region.


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