What We Feel While Being 'Home Journalists' During The COVID-19 Emergency
Online press conference monitoring activity (VOI)

JAKARTA - The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread. Since two weeks ago, the government has issued an appeal for social distancing - now changed to physical distancing - so that teaching and learning activities and work should be carried out as much as possible without having to leave the house. It is also for us journalists. Yes, although some are still forced to leave, especially their fellow photojournalists and videographers.

Some time after cases 01 and 02 were announced, a number of journalist associations expressed their stance. The Indonesian Journalists Alliance (AJI), one of them. Responding to the risks journalists have to face in their field coverage, AJI issued seven appeals. All of these requests are adjusted to field conditions and the government's appeal to avoid crowds.

The first point is that AJI calls on the authorities to publish press releases accompanied by photos and videos of events, complete with descriptive notes and copyrights for moving or still images. Second, AJI asked related parties to present the data needed for news reporting needs. Furthermore, AJI appealed to the use of live streaming technology or sending images online via the official website or link provided by the authorities or sources.

Fourth, AJI encourages a live broadcast channel on social media platforms that can accommodate question and answer sessions between resource persons and journalists. Fifth, ask sources to provide press information via short videos along with information and copyright. Sixth, face-to-face interviews with sources as much as possible should only be carried out based on urgent considerations and with the approval of the chief editor. The coverage must also be accompanied by a record of the journalist's interactions with people met in the reporting process.

Journalists should urge the public relations and communication teams of respective authorities or sources concerned to provide a contact number ready to be contacted for confirmation needs. In this appeal, the Chairman of AJI Jakarta Asnil Bambani also reminded journalists: Prioritizing health and safety, there is no news worth life.

Home coverage

So far, the cooperation between the authorities and journalists has been quite good. We as a team also share the task of overseeing the press conference of each authority. Ministry of Communication and Informatics (Kemkominfo), one of them. So far, the Ministry of Communication and Information has reflected the identity of their ministry quite well, at least to accommodate press conferences or online interactions with journalists. The Kemkominfo TV YouTube channel is our daily watch.

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Thursday afternoon, March 26, we are getting ready to attend the press conference scheduled by the Ministry of Communication and Information at 14.30 WIB. The headset is already on our heads, the cellphone battery, we make sure it is fully charged so that it can last during the press conference. That afternoon, the Ministry of Communication and Information will deliver the decision of the Minister of Communication and Information Technology (Menkominfo) regarding tracing, tracking, and fencing (containment) of COVID-19.

Up to this point, everything about the Menkominfo's press conference feels the same as when we covered it live at the Kemkominfo Building in Central Jakarta. The Minister, Johnny G Plate, as usual, was dying. We waited about 16 minutes for Johnny to actually appear on the live stream.

The press conference started, and the difference was felt immediately. First, of course, we don't have to jostle other journalists to interview Johnny. The minister sat quietly on the screen, wearing the white shirt typical of today's cabinet members. Johnny is also seen with a mask that does not fit perfectly over the mouth.

Menkominfo Johnny G Plate (YouTube)

The politician from the National Democratic Party (NasDem) began discussing the issuance of the Minister of Communication and Information Decree (SK) Number 159 of 2020 concerning Efforts to Handling COVID-19 through support from the postal and informatics sector. Through the issuance of the decree, the Ministry of Communication and Information will detect the spread of COVID-19 in the country through an application called TraceTogether.

Applications will be installed on smartphones of positive patients with COVID-19. Once installed, the application will be used to track the interactions and movements of COVID-19 positive patients for the past 14 days. This application can also alert COVID-19 patients if they pass through isolation locations. Later, based on tracking and tracing, the numbers detected around positive patients will be given a warning to immediately carry out the ODP (Insider Monitoring) protocol.

"The integrated surveillance effort uses the TraceTogether application developed by telecommunication operators, and will be installed on the smartphone of positive COVID-19 patients to provide emergency treatment when a COVID-19 patient is needed, and can carry out tracing, tracking, and fencing, and can give alerts if he is (the patient) passed the isolation location, "said Johnny.

In addition to the TraceTogether matter, the SK also encourages cellular service providers to optimize services to support school activities and work from home carried out by the community during the COVID-19 emergency period. On that occasion, Johnny stated that he would strengthen coordination with the Ministry of Health (Kemenkes), the Ministry of BUMN, the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), and a number of cellular operators in implementing the SK.

Question and answer

For us journalists, the situation of working from home feels very unusual. Imagine a press conference which only goes in one direction without interaction between journalists and sources.

As a result, journalists do not have the opportunity to ask questions about specific topics outside of the press conference. There is also a question and answer session conducted with a special mechanism. Journalists' questions had been accommodated in advance to be read by employees of the Ministry of Communication and Information to Johnny.

A journalist from Cyberthreat.id raised a question, "Is this application developed by Kominfo and the operator itself or is it using Singapore's TraceTogether open source project?"

Responding to that question, Johnny answered, "This application was developed by the children of their own country. The results are the same, or equivalent to those developed in Singapore. In essence, these applications are made to be used to be able to perform tracing, tracking, and fencing, so that our efforts to cut off the transmission line of COVID-19 can be done well and quickly. "

The question and answer session runs with three questions. Apart from the questions above, other journalists questioned the form of the TraceTogether application that Johnny explained and whether the Ministry of Communication and Information also integrated this application with the Ministry of Health's data.

If there are technical problems in the coverage, of course, an internet connection. However, we are not worried. Because, even if we are left behind, we can still watch the video again through Kominfo TV's YouTube channel because the live streaming broadcast will be automatically saved on that channel.

Overall, we feel the press conference held by the Ministry of Communication and Information online is quite effective and efficient. If there are technical glitches in this online coverage, of course, the internet connection. Another obstacle, of course, was dissatisfaction because there was no direct interaction that prevented two-way communication between us and Johnny as the source.

The English, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and French versions are automatically generated by the AI. So there may still be inaccuracies in translating, please always see Indonesian as our main language. (system supported by DigitalSiber.id)