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Media’s gender insensitivity and Maharany


It has been a month since the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) revealed a high profile graft case involving the president of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq. The corruption case surrounding the procurement of imported beef also implicated businessmen, Juard Effendi and Arya Abdi Effendi, and a man known as Ahmad Fathanah, an aide to Luthfi.

The four of them have been named suspects by the anti-graft body.

In January 30, the KPK arrested Ahmad because he had allegedly received Rp 1 billion from the two businessmen. The money was allegedly supposed to be handed to Luthfi, then a lawmaker, so that he would award the beef procurement contract to the businessmen. The KPK nabbed Ahmad inside a hotel room in Central Jakarta along with a woman who was later identified as Maharany. She was released by the commission after being questioned.

However, the stories about the arrest of Ahmad went wild as most media outlets in Indonesia produced irrelevant reports. Instead of focusing on the graft scandal, most of media in the country exaggerated the reporting of Maharany, questioning her role in the graft scandal.

Several weeks before the arrest, the KPK announced that it had identified a new type of gratification, which is not in the form of money, but in sex. The Jakarta Post early in January reported that the KPK was drafting a rule to combat the practice of sex gratuities [1].

Most media then made a connection between Ahmad’s arrest and sex gratuity practices, thereby, making assumptions about the role of Maharany, who accompanied Ahmad, as a prostitute in their news articles.

Nur Iman Subono in one of his article in Jurnal Perempuan argues that media still have many biases in representing women in their reporting. Women, he says, are usually placed as objects. Therefore, media like to expose women’s sensual bodies, women’s vulnerability or even women as prostitutes. According to Nur, there are only limited numbers of media which have implemented gender perspective in their reporting [2].

Therefore, it is not a surprise to see that most media in Indonesia exploit the reporting on Maharany because they see her as an object to sell. They see her as an object that can attract more people to read their media products. Online media merdeka.com, for instance, dedicated days after days only to expose the reporting of Maharany. Sometimes, it even produced unnecessary articles which only cornered and attack Maharany, instead of centering on the reporting of the graft scandal.

In one of its articles, Merdeka.com tells about Maharany’s hobby of wearing sexy clothes and her habit of going out after midnights [3]. The article uses a motorcycle taxi (ojek) driver and one of Maharany’s friends as its news sources. The article, in my opinion, is very irrelevant to be produced if Merdeka.com wants to produce a straight news article which focuses on the graft case scandal.

The article as if narrates Maharany as a naughty juvenile. In Indonesian culture, as in many patriarchal societies, women are very limited by place and time. People will stigmatize women that are frequent of coming home late at night. People will also deem women that like to wear revealing as naughty women. Merdeka.com has killed Maharany by exploiting her habits that are very contrast with Indonesian cultural norms.

Besides the aforementioned article, there are also dozens of articles available in merdeka.com under topic ‘#Maharany’ that are actually very irrelevant to be produced.  

Surprisingly, a respected media like Tempo.co also produced irrelevant articles on Maharany. Tempo is long recognized and respected as a leading media in Indonesia. It has a weekly investigative magazine and daily newspaper.

Tempo.co in one of its articles told its readers that its anonymous source saw Maharany and Ahmad were naked when the KPK entered their hotel room [4]. This became the reference for many media to make follow up stories about the alleged role of Maharany as an ‘award’ for Ahmad.

Besides Merdeka.com and Tempo.co, there are still many media outlets that corner Maharany and place her as an object.

In my opinion, the fact that Maharany and Ahmad were arrested in a hotel room had been enough for public to draw conclusion about the true nature of what they were doing there. Media do not need to further elaborate in what condition when they were arrested. The fact that Maharany and Ahmad were arrested together inside a room had been enough for public to quickly assume that the girl was being awarded to Ahmad.

I believe that producing follow up stories about Maharany’s status, hobbies and habits that contradict the norms of Indonesians in general. I believe that media should protect Maharany from further public judgment instead of making her the object of public’s condemnation. Unfortunately, because many media still lack understanding of gender sensitive reporting, media only place Maharany as a toy to be played with. Printed media hoped that stories about Maharany could raise their circulations, while online media expected that never ending articles about her would boost their hits. In the end, Maharany only served as the object of gender insensitive media.

With such insensitive publication, media has killed Maharany’s future. People in the near future will remember her face because her face has dominated any thinkable news media as well as social media when the KPK arrested her along with Ahmad. Maharany, regardless of actions she has take, still has rights to continue her life. However, such extensive irrelevant publications of her stories surrounding the graft scandal have also probably ruined her future.

This Maharany brouhaha, I believe, should become a start of Indonesian media to be more aware about gender sensitive reporting. With such knowledge, media will only then be able to produce news products that are really balance and unbiased towards specific gender.

References:

[1] KPK to Battle Sexual Gratuities, The Jakarta Post, accessed from http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/01/09/kpk-battle-sexual-gratification.html
[2] Nur Iman Subono, Menuju Jurnalisme yang Berperspektif Gender, Jurnal Perempuan No 28, 2003.
[3] Kisah Maharany, uang Rp 10 juta, baju seksi, dan mobil goyang, Merdeka.com, accessed from http://www.merdeka.com/peristiwa/kisah-maharany-uang-rp-10-juta-baju-seksi-dan-mobil-goyang.html
[4] Maharani dan Suara Berisik di Kamar Le Meridien, Tempo.co, accessed from http://www.tempo.co/read/news/2013/01/31/078458096/Maharani-dan-Suara-Berisik-di-Kamar-Le-Meridien








Comments

  1. Interesting article! I am going to use this as a reference for my class discussion on sexual gratification in Indonesia.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh please do use it. I will be very honored ...

      Delete

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