Journalists Aid Tsunami Victims And IFJ Hails “Golden Opportunity for Peace” in Aceh

The aftermath of the tsunami tragedy in Aceh provides a “golden opportunity for solidarity, peace and press freedom” says the International Federation of Journalists, which is visting Indonesia in support of media staff affected by the disaster.

Speaking at a press conference in Jakarta today, Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ, the world’s largest journalists' group, said journalists around the world had shown unprecedented solidarity with colleagues in Indonesia and other areas.

“Almost 100,000 US dollars has been donated to our special appeal for journalists and media staff affected and their families,” said White. “It is a magnificent show of sympathy and goodwill.”

White presented its Indonesian affiliate, the Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) with 30,000$ US for immediate humanitarian assistance to Aceh media staff. About 20,000 $US had been sent in the first week after the disaster.

White said that the positive power of the world’s media had been shown at its best in coverage of the Aceh disaster. “Dramatic, emotional and highly professional reporting of the tragedy has provoked global solidarity at levels never seen before,” he said. “Now it is the responsibility of the government to take advantage of this goodwill and seize what is a golden opportunity for solidarity, peace and press freedom.”

He said that talk of controls over the movement of journalists and others should be abandoned and efforts to find a negotiated solution to the dispute in the region should be stepped up after decades of simmering conflict.

“The world has woken up to the reality of life in Aceh and this provides a chance for peace and renewal,” he said. “It also is an opportuntiy to put press freedom and rights of media at the heart of future strategies in the region.” Last year the IFJ negotiated with GAM officials in Sweden as part of the successful effort involving AJI to free Fery Santoro, the television journalist held hostage in Aceh.

White said the IFJ has signed a project contract with AJI for trade union development over the next three years. “We want to work closely with AJI to help strengthen the rights of journalists in Indonesia,” he said. “We are supporting immediate efforts to rebuild the AJI structure for media support in Aceh.”

The IFJ says that support for its disaster appeal, which is also providing help for journalists and media staff in Sri Lanka and other countries affected, had come directly from journalists’ unions in Australia, Greece, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Slovakia, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Japan, Malta, Croatia, the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, and Thailand.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries