108 Local Residents Around Leuser National Park Trained in Citizen Journalism by EJN Media Grantee in Indonesia 

a group of people outdoors

108 Local Residents Around Leuser National Park Trained in Citizen Journalism by EJN Media Grantee in Indonesia 

In July and August this year, 108 participants from Aceh and North Sumatera, Indonesia, participated in a series of citizen journalism training workshops held by TempoWitness and Acehsatu.com, supported by Internews' Earth Journalism Network through its 2022 Asia-Pacific media grant. 

TempoWitness is a citizen journalism platform developed by Tempo Media Group. The platform aims to give voice to the voiceless through various activities including knowledge sharing and skills training, so grassroots communities can tell their own stories from their surrounding environment. Acehsatu.com, their local project partner, is a professional media outlet that has developed its own citizen journalism program for communities that live around Leuser National Park.  

Local journalists, community members, activists from local environmental NGOs and CSOs, and forest rangers joined the two-day trainings, aimed at increasing awareness of environmental issues surrounding the Leuser National Park such as illegal logging and poaching while also building capacity to report on the environment. 

“We recognize the shortcomings of the media; even local media can’t cover everything. Community members are the eye and ears. And for the local people there, becoming citizen journalists means empowerment, a way they can address issues,” said Harry Surjadi, a senior environmental journalist and media trainer who founded TempoWitness. 

The series of trainings kicked off with a four-day training of trainers (ToT) for seven editors and journalists – from Acehsatu.com, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Banda Aceh chapter, and the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN). The ToT was expected to build the capacity of participants to become citizen journalism trainers in their own communities. The training, held from 23 to 26 of July, was led by Surjadi and Yosep Suprayogi, the managing editor for Tempo Media Group. 

The first citizen journalism training was held on 27-28 July, where 15 activists from eight environmental NGOs in Aceh participated – Forest, Nature and Environment of Aceh (HAkA), Aceh Hijau Foundation, Aceh Peat Society Network, KuALA Network, Ekosistem Lestari Foundation, Transparency Society of Aceh (MaTA), Anti-Corruption Movement of Aceh (GeRAK), and the Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for Environment. 

“I came straight from Medan [North Sumatera] to attend the training because the material presented is important for our activities in the Leuser National Park. We can report events we witness in a journalistic format,” says Asril from the Ekosistem Lestari Foundation, a non-profit that supports community development, especially for those who live adjacent to conservation areas. 

“This is the first time I have participated in journalism training. I will use this to create activity reports,” says Munira from HAkA, an organization that focuses on the protection of the Leuser ecosystem through policy advocacy and community empowerment.  

The next training, which was held from 29-30 July at the Leuser National Park included members of the law enforcement unit and forest rangers from the Aceh conservation agency and Aceh and North Sumatera forest stakeholder unit. 

"It is important to train forest rangers and law enforcement staff because they have access to and often enter protected forest areas, while the local community don’t,” said Surjadi. The TempoWitness team then traveled to Nagan Raya district, some 297 kilometers from Banda Aceh, where a community training was held from 13-14 August and again on 15-16 August in Gayo Lues district, each attended by about 20 participants  


a discussion with seated participants and standing presenter
Dini Pramita from TempoWitness is explaining the training material to participants at the APEL secretariat (a local youth environment group) in Nagan Raya district.  

The final training was held in the Aceh Tamiang district from 18-19 August for 20 community members (including farmers, youth activists and forest officers). They learned how journalists work, and how they can become citizen journalists for TempoWitness. 

“I hope [this training] can lead to a positive change in the environment where I live,” says Supardi, a participant from Sekrak Village, Aceh Tamiang district. 

Despite several challenges such as frequent power blackouts and unreliable mobile phone network, participants of the TempoWitness journalism training learned about the basics of media, journalism and press law. These topics include recognizing facts and data, the questioning method of 5W1H (what, who, where, when, how, and why), how to gather information through observation and research, inverted pyramid writing technique – a story structure where the most important information is presented first -- and how to formulate issues within the community they are reporting on. 

Through sample cases and practical work, the team of trainers also focused on imparting knowledge to participants about how to distinguish between facts and personal opinion, and how not to mix them.  

Florence Armein, EJN’s senior content coordinator for Indonesia, said the two-pronged approach by TempoWitness is a milestone in citizen journalism. “They are not only providing a platform where citizen journalists can share their story with a wide audience, they are also improving communities' capacity to report their own stories about their environment, the work they do, and challenges they are dealing with.” 

workshop in session
A session in progress / Yusmadi Yusuf.

Banner image: Participants and trainers pose for a group photo following the second citizen journalism training on 15-16 August, in Gayo Lues district, Aceh, held at the secretariat of a local NGO, Forum Penjaga Hutan dan Sungai (River and Forest Protecters Forum) / Credit: Yusmadi Yusuf for AcehSatu.

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