Safely covering foreign conflicts, Indonesian journalist got beaten in home country

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Desi Fitriani examining the picture of herself being hit by radical islamics (Aino Haili/Voice of Millennials)

Jakarta – Veteran war journalist Desi Fitriani shows disappointment when speaking about the attacks she experienced when covering rally in Jakarta recently.

“I was sad and ashamed,” Desi told journalist of Voice of Millennials on Monday at the sideline of workshop of World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) in Jakarta.

In an interview on television recently, she said it was the worst incident she ever encountered in her life.

“I’ve been in conflict areas, in Afghanistan, Gaza, and other muslim countries. There weren’t any physical attacks to women,” she said. “That was the first time I experienced this kind of violence, being punched, got hit by wooden stick.”

She was attacked when covering a protest against Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.  The protesters accused Ahok, the first Chinese descendant and Christian governor in the capital, of blaspheming Islam.

Journalists under attack

Some Jakarta journalists were intimidated and physically attacked when covering a series of rally against Ahok. Desi is one of them.

It was a quiet morning when Desi and her team arrived in the location of the rally in Pecenongan, Central Jakarta. Some demonstrators were excited to see her. But the peaceful situation did not last long.

“There was a group screaming, ‘tell her to go, tell her to go’,” Desi said.

“Suddenly someone threw water at us. We were beaten from right and left, we were kicked. Someone hit my head. They spit on my cameraman. We were kicked, the traces of their foot were on our trousers.”

Among those who hit her and her team were female and kids. A marine escorted Desi and her cameraman to cathedral church nearby.

She reported the case to Jakarta police few hours after the incident. But no further investigation has been done up until now.

A visitor of World Press Freedom Day took a picture of Desi Fitriani photo. The photo shows Desi was escorted by marine to Cathedral church after being attacked by the mob. (Photo by Hafizh Gemilang/Voice of Millennilas)

No One Could Save Journalists, Not Even Police

Desi told Voice of Millennials that the protection of Indonesian journalists actually has been getting better.

“But no one can guarantee the life and security of journalists in a conflict zone,” Desi said.

“In the same way, no one can guarantee the safety of ordinary people in conflict zone. Who can provide a second life for journalist? No one. So, for us as war journalist, the risk is still there.”

She said journalists have to learn to protect themselves when covering conflict or war. For that reason, Desi once joined a safety training for journalist in conflict. She also took part in a shooting training.

“There’s rule that in a way to protect journalist, we need to get embedded to the legal enforcers. But it’s not beneficial for us as we will tend to write more about the force,” she said.

“So there should be time we detach ourselves and join the separatist group.”

Desi said that journalists who often cover conflicts and wars would instinctively know how to protect themselves.

“We can feel when the situation suddenly turn ugly, when the village suddenly get too quiet or when someone is tailing us,” she said, adding that no one, not even police could protect her.

“We can not say that police can provide us security, we can’t. The bullet has no eyes. We can die anytime.”

The writer is a student at Universitas Multimedia Nusantara

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