Source: Citizen Journalists of Solo, East Java

A short message from Whatsapp come into the Misbahul’s smartphone a few days after the election of mayor was held in Surakarta, Central Java on the 9th December 2020. Those messages were about the complaint regarding the articles written by Misbahul Arifin (23) on Atmago.com, a website that publishes articles from citizen journalists.

Those messages contained protests about Misbahul’s article which criticized the implementation of the medical protocol in the polling station (TPS) in Surakarta. A message sender is a polling station officer (KPPS). He threatened Misbahul to move out of his home. Misbahul flinched.

Growing up as people with a disability (low vision) makes him familiar with facing the problem like that. “I thought it was unmistaken. Indonesia has a law. If I made mistake, he can sue me to the police,” said Misbahul.

Ika Yuniati, a journalist working for Solo Pos who became a mentor for Misbahul in the citizen journalist empowerment program, got in anxious. But Misbahul persuades Ika to not be worried. Misbahul and Ika were involved in the citizen journalism program spearheaded by Indonesia Association for Media Development (PPMN) under The Asia-Pacific Regional Support for Elections and Political Transitions (RESPECT).

Misbahul feels that he has already written with journalism ethic. He writes facts and verifies them to a number of source persons. His article entitled Questioning Medical Protocol and The Accessibility for People with Disability during the Election Period has been published in 4 series since 11th December 2020 or two days after polling day.

The articles talk about unimplemented medical protocol in the one of polling stations based on the experiences of voters with disabilities (including Misbahul). Actually, the articles do not only talk about bad implementation but talking about good implementation also like giving facilitation for PWD.

In despite of the articles are the first coverage written by Misbahul as a citizen journalist, the article got reaching-far and got a positive response from the public. Chief of the election commission (KPU) Surakarta, Nurul Sutarti called Misbahul to confirm the information of his article. She gave thanks to Misbahul due to write it. A polling station officer who sent the message and threatened Misbahul finally apologized to him a few days after Nurul called him.

Feelings of inadequacy

Misbahul feels a lack of self-confidence while joining to citizen journalist community although his articles got reaching-far, winning the award, and getting a positive response. “I was invited by Astuti from Solider,” said the man who was born in Kudus. Solider.id is a news website developed by Sasana Inklusi & Gerakan Advokasi Difabel (SIGAB), a non-profit organization based in Yogyakarta.

Astuti make him believe to join the CJ community guided by Ika. He is the only one of the members with disabilities. He is not confident not because of his disability but he feels the skill of journalistic he has is not enough.

“I only had experience as an opinion writer for the magazine, meanwhile they ever had written news in various of media and platforms,” said Misbahul who lead the Indonesia Association of Muslim Vision Disability for Solo Region.

The situation of one of the workshops held by the JW Solo team with health protocols in a cafe. Misbahul is the only Solo’s Citizen Journalism member with the special needs

As time passed by, his self-confidence is increased. The writing workshop and training he followed built him to become more confident. He also learns about election and disability rights related to by-election accessibility through a number of source persons he met in the training during four months of program. He also is allowed to contact Ika as his mentor every time he needs for discussing the topic he wants to write about or discussing another thing about journalism.

That’s why he is not afraid when somebody protested his article. “I take the fact and evidence not opinion,” he said. He learned from CJ community, forbidden for journalists to mix their opinion into a news article.

Misbahul who lost his sight since he was 10 years old believing data and fact is something we need in this era. He is concerned with the widespread crisis of disinformation making people to judge the other one just because of getting the uncertain information from the internet.

The former coordinator of Mosque Takmer in the University of Sebelas Maret is resentful to the people using the religion to justify himself. He promises to improve his journalistic skill although the program ended.

“From this community, finally I knew where I supposed to publish this articles I have ever made,” he said. For Misbahul, his skill in journalism becomes one of the tools to reduce disinformation. His disability is not an obstacle to doing something good for others. He believed that since the beginning. “Losing my sight doesn’t make my world disappear either,” said him.

(Fransisca Ria Susanti)

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