Reporter Voice of Democratic (VOD), the online media belonging to the Center for Independent Media Cambodia (CCIM), got busier as voting day arrived. They have the task of contacting citizen journalists at polling stations (TPS) spread across several provinces. Information from citizen journalists in the form of writing, photos and videos they reprocess before being published to the public.
"We have a mission to bring information to the public by involving the public, such as civil society and the general public," said Central Executive Director for Cambodian Independent Media (CCIM) Danilo Caspe in an online training themed Encouraging Citizen Participation in Reporting Election Processes by Reference to Good Practices in the Southeast Asia Regional Region on Tuesday, September 15, 2020.
CCIM has trained at least 200 citizen journalists to supply information to VOD reporters. Citizen journalists are equipped with basic journalism knowledge, reporting ethics, the use of reporting tools to the identity card from CCIM. There is no age limit to become a citizen journalist. As long as they can write and have a cell phone, anyone can register themselves.
According to Danilo, involving citizens as journalists in the election is an option because the mainstream media cannot reach 22 thousand polling stations spread across 24 provinces throughout Cambodia. Through citizen journalists, incidents at several polling stations can be monitored and made public knowledge.
Information from citizen journalists is disseminated through various channels such as the Facebook page. CCIM also establishes independent media such as VOD and provides a web-based platform such as Citizen News Wire to collect information from citizen journalists. All information is published after going through the verification process.
"We also collaborate with civil society groups. We recruit their members to become citizen journalists. Now in each province there are two citizen journalist coordinators who coordinate with citizen journalists and are in charge of recruiting, "said Danilo.
The mobilization of citizen journalists to supply election information was also carried out Citizen Journal (CJ.my), an independent media in Malaysia. During the 2008 Malaysian elections, citizens were trained to record events during the campaign and voting.
"There are many issues about money politics. Unfortunately, professional reporters can't reach out when that happens. Meanwhile, residents in the field are always connected to reality and that is the best opportunity to use citizen journalists, ”said Citizen Journal Managing Editor Maran Perianen.
They have conducted more than 80 citizen journalist training in various parts of Malaysia such as Kelantan, Penang, Perak, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Sabah, and Sarawak. Of the 400 citizen journalists who were trained, 150 were actively sending information. To date, CJ.my has produced around 1900 videos and 2000 articles mostly published in MalaysiaKini.
For Maran, the involvement of citizen journalists allows the democratization of information. The mainstream media is no longer the sole source of information for the public. Moreover, according to him, the media in Malaysia is mostly controlled by the government so that the available information rarely records events at the grassroots or the voices of opposition groups.
Maran gave an example, when the campaign period was going on, information was dominated by candidate programs and what was important according to candidates. Meanwhile, there is no room in the mass media to discuss what the public needs. Citizen journalists recruited from various communities, according to Maran, can fill this gap by providing information that represents issues in various communities such as ethnic groups, transgender women, and young people.
"Citizen journalists are capable of being the 'eyes' that are much needed when covering elections. As members of the community, they are able to report according to the context of their community, ”said Maran.
However, Maran warned to be selective in choosing citizen journalists who serve the community, not candidates.
Executive Director of the Nusantaran Media Development Association (PPMN) Eni Mulia agreed that empowering citizens as journalists is able to cover the limitations of the mainstream media. Especially during a pandemic, the mainstream media is under pressure from the side of resources, causing limited space for journalists to move.
"Citizen journalists can fill that space to access good information and encourage change," he said on Monday, September 14, 2020.
Eni said Indonesia would face Concurrent Regional Head Elections on December 9, 2020 in 270 regions. The holding of Pilkada during a pandemic has big challenges so it needs supervision from various parties. Citizen journalists can take a role by reporting on the entire pilkada process from the village level.
Currently, PPMN - Respect is organizing citizen journalists in five regional elections namely Yahukimo, Palu, Central Lombok, Solo, and Ketapang to monitor the 2020 Pilkada process. Encouraging Citizen Participation in Reporting Election Processes by Reference to Good Practices in the Southeast Asia Regional Region on September 14-18 2020. Not only monitoring, citizen journalists are expected to be able to provide education to voters so that the public can make choices based on balanced information.
Voter education has been carried out by the Indonesian Community Radio Network (JRKI) in the regions that participated in the 2015 Pilkada Simultaneously. The chairman of JRKI Sinam Sutarno said that citizen journalists in East Java and Central Java were trained to produce public service announcements that campaign for the election with integrity.
By cooperating with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), a competition between community radios was held to reject money politics. From these activities, Sinam said they managed to get 40 election campaign materials against money politics that were played on various community radios. According to him, the material is effective in providing political education for voters, especially in areas not reached by election organizers.
"We are campaigning (if) money politics in the Pilkada is the same. If it is not the result of corruption, then it is the capital to be in power so that it can become corruption. The discussion took place on community radios, "he said.
Community radio, he explained, is also a means for JRKI so that people can identify their agenda in the regional elections. The agenda departs from everyday problems such as the high price of fertilizers and the difficulty of selling agricultural products. This problem should be voiced in the regional elections to find a solution.
Not only that, understanding the regulations of the community can also avoid election hoaxes. The Indonesian Anti-slander Society noted that from 2018 to January 2019, there were 997 hoaxes. Of these, 488 of them, or 49.94 percent, have political themes.
"The rules are clear, such as prohibitions, but they are not well conveyed. Community radio can bridge the socialization of regulations, "he said.
By understanding Pilkada regulations, the Executive Director of the Association for Elections and Democracy Khoirunnisa Nur Agustyati assessed that it would also be easier for the public to oversee the pilkada. Organizers issued many regulations such as nominations, campaigns, voter list compilation, to the latest regulations regarding the implementation of regional elections in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. So that long before voting day, the public can monitor the many stages of the elections that are running.
"The stages are very complex and long so that many monitors are needed," he said. (Deborah Blandina Sinambela)