Book title: Global Muckraking; 100 Years of Investigative Journalism from Around the World.
Editor: Anya Schiffrin.
Publisher: The New Press
Publication year: 2014.
Pages: 296 p.
It's almost over the history of print media. Big names like Ray of hope, The Jakarta Globe, and Daily Ball collapsed. A number of magazines under the umbrella of the business group Compass even in name only. The ones who closed quietly, without saying goodbye to their loyal readers, I think are not small. The flood of information in digital media has hit the circulation of most of the print media. The flow of print media audience migration to digital is getting bigger. It has already been in the United States and Europe.
In its history, print media has contributed to changes and revolutions in parts of the world. One of the gold inks that the printed press inscribed was the prowess of its journalists in reporting investigative reports. Dismantling organized, systematic and detrimental practices of abuse of power. Throughout the 20th century, this type of reporting has helped to accelerate important changes in many countries.
One of the memorable books about the triumph of printed media which succeeded in changing the world is summarized in a book Global Muckraking; 100 Years of Investigative Journalism from Around the World. This book, edited by Anya Schiffrin, contains a series of stories and reports that expose crimes and power abuses that have occurred in the continents of Africa, Asia, America and Australia throughout a century.
However, Schiffrin did not include the names of well-known journalists who made history in the US. The director of the media and communications program at the School of International and Public Relations at Columbia University, USA, did not include the heroic story of the famous journalist duo Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward whose investigative coverage of the Watergate scandal led to President Richard Nixon resigning from office.
The female journalist Rachel Carson who uncovers the fake green revolution in her book Silent Spring and Ida M. Tarbel, who revealed business octopus and the power of oil king John D. Rockefeller, are also not on the list. The big name Seymour Myron Hersh, a journalist who investigated the savagery of the US army in Vietnam and in the operation to overthrow Saddam Hussein with NATO troops in Iraqi territory, is also not mentioned in this book.
In the introduction to this book, Schiffrin stated that he chose to investigate investigative reportage documents produced by journalists abroad. Journalists who are not known to the world, even in the journalist's own country. Schiffrin, assisted by his colleagues, selects the works of investigative journalists on a variety of topics from a number of countries, particularly Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa to Asia.
The selection process for this work is like a new idol contest. Schiffrin asked the opinion of a number of academics, historians and investigative journalists in a number of countries to participate in nominating the best journalist candidates and the results of investigative coverage during the 1900s and 2000s. These academics, historians and journalists act as contributors who provide comments, providing the context and background for the emergence of investigative reportage reported by the journalist. They also discussed the figures and motivations of the journalists behind the investigative reportage. So that readers, especially journalists who are interested in investigative journalism, can get inspiration from this figure.
As a result, this book features figures and snippets of the previously unknown works of investigative journalists in Latin America, Africa and Asia, except for Sheilla Coronel, whose name has soared among international journalists with the independent journalist organization she founded, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ). .
The themes covered by journalists in this book range from issues of slavery, anti-colonialism, corruption, human rights violations, militarism, environmental damage, hunger, poverty, to injustice against women. There is no doubt that these problems still occur and are experienced by many people under a democratic system and modern governance.
Burning with anger
This initial section tells the figure and pieces of Edmund Dene (ED) Morel's reportage written by Adam Hoschild about the practice of oppression and human rights violations in Congo, Africa. Morel (18 73-1924) wrote a series of reports regarding the atrocities committed by King Leopold II in Congo, before being colonized by Belgium and later becoming the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Before becoming a journalist, as told Hoschild, Morel originally worked as an employee of the British shipping airline Elder Dempster based in Liverpool. The airline holds a monopoly on the passage of ships going back and forth between Belgium and Congo at the Port of Antwerp, Belgium. Morel's job is to supervise the loading and unloading of goods for each ship belonging to the airline that comes from and is about to leave for Congo.
During his service at the Port of Antwerp, Belgium, Morel was a young man who worked hard. He memorized the loading and unloading process and the contents of the cargo. Ships returning from Congo often carry huge piles of African elephant ivory and large volumes of rubber to supply the needs of the rapidly growing automotive industry at that time. However, when the ships were about to leave for Congo, Morel only saw that the ship was filled with troops, weapons, ammunition, and the logistical needs of the soldiers.
The story of his investigation into the persecution of labor in Congo stems from his anger at the injustices he witnessed. While still an employee of Elder Dempster, he protested to his superiors. He urged companies not to become involved and support this oppressive trading practice. But the boss refused, because the value of the business contract received by the airline was too large. The boss even offers a position with a high salary if Morel remains silent. The offer he refused. He chose to leave and became a journalist, exposed and broadcast the big case to the public in Europe.
The investigative reports he wrote appeared on the main page of the magazine Speaker received public attention, including support from political activists and NGOs. Burning with anger, he even published a newspaper specifically covering the persecution of labor in Congo and founded the Congo Reform Association organization. Morel's initiative has the support of a number of colleagues and readers. A number of other journalists have joined in exposing the torture that led to the mass deaths of forced rubber plantation workers in Congo. In fact, the population in Congo, which in 1880 reached 20 million, was only half of it at that time.
After more than a decade, journalistic work coupled with struggles through political campaigns by the organization he founded bore fruit. According to Morel's journalistic report, supported by Congo's reform campaign, the Belgian royal government changed its trade policy with the Kingdom of the Congo under King Leopold II.
Yes. For readers who have read Multatuli's book, Max Havelaar: or Dutch Trading Airline Coffee Auction, Morel's snippets of stories of oppression and injustice in interstate trade seem to have something in common. The practice of trading agricultural commodities in exchange for soldiers, weapons, ammunition, and very low wages.
Nike workers in Tangerang
Labor issues, especially regarding workers' welfare, are not stories from the past. Royal or colonial era. In the era of globalization, oppression of workers still often occurs in third world countries that are hungry for foreign capital in the name of development. Development journalism (development journalism) developed in these countries, including Indonesia. The coverage of development issues and foreign capital is more prominent than the voices of the oppressed due to development itself. State-owned media, such as TVRI and RRI, barely broadcast labor issues. Development, which became the jargon of the Suharto government, dominated broadcast and news content.
In the 1990s, the issue of oppression of workers in Indonesia rose to the surface, even on the world stage. Several print media also reported. One of the things that drew public attention at that time was the death of Marsinah, a female labor activist who worked in a factory in Sidoarjo. Before being killed, the woman worker who was actively holding the demonstration was kidnapped and raped. The news of the death sparked a labor movement and solidarity in a number of regions in Indonesia.
In this book, Schiffrin includes an investigative report by Indonesian journalists on unbalanced international trafficking practices and labor oppression. But it is not news about Marsinah's killing. The labor issue raised was the case of a shoe factory worker who became a contractor to Nike, a world shoe manufacturer. One of the shoe factories is located in Tangerang.
Taufiqulhadi and Usmandi Andeska, two daily journalists Indonesian media reported the inequality between the wages of shoe workers working for the world's shoe companies. The price of a pair of Nike shoes at that time was an average of $75, even up to $175. Meanwhile, the shoe laborer's daily salary in Tangerang is very minimalist, only IDR 986! The wage was far below the minimum wage in effect in West Java at that time, IDR 1,600 per day.
Recently, reports that exposed the ulcers of the labor system received attention from foreign media. The labor reports sparked campaigns and advocacy by international NGOs. Consumers in a number of developed countries are increasingly critical of the goods they buy. This forced shoe companies like Nike to change their labor policies.
Repeating Crimes in the Digital Age
The issue of the welfare of factory workers at this international company still continues in the digital era, the beginning of the 20th century. This case was repeated in China when a number of workers at the Foxconn company, a factory that manufactures devices for Apple, died of suicide due to high workloads and very low wages. September 2015, as reported by the website publicintegrity.org, hundreds of former workers at the famous Samsung smartphone manufacturer in South Korea have developed cancer due to exposure to toxic chemicals while working.
Apart from the issue of oppression of workers, investigative reports related to power abuse in the form of corruption, collusion, human rights violations, environmental destruction, corporate exploitation, poverty, and violence against women quoted in this book are themes that are never timeless. Therefore, investigative reports written by print media journalists summarized in this book can be a reference and a source of inspiration for journalists in the digital era.
Not surprisingly, after reading the stories and investigative processes in this book, readers will find the impression that the limitations of information technology are not a barrier to investigations and publications from reaching a wide audience. In gathering documentary evidence and key sources, the journalists told here rely on field reports or those who are popular with "shoe leather reporting". Reportage technique by visiting the location of the incident, reading the pile of documents, to find key sources.
The common thread in a series of investigative reports in this book is that investigative journalism is the culmination of journalism practices that the public is always waiting for. They write with one mission: to reveal the truth. Despite their different times and places, journalists share a common vision: for a better humanity and civilization.
Most of the print media that contain investigative reports in this book are only names. Others may be gasping for breath. Or even get ready for the digital era. What is clear is that the media can change, but the essence of the existence of the press as a supervisor of power must not die. Because, said Schiffrin in this book, new crime patterns to new corruption tricks are a new battlefield for the media. ***
Author: Samiaji Bintang, Director of the Institute for Press and Development Studies (LSPP)