Neither it’s necessarily euphemistic nor sarcastic but I had to think in ‘’a little bit creative’’ way while reading news on two Indonesian news portals –detik.com and beritajatim.com— and a piece of Singapore’s largest newspaper, thestraitstimes.com on Monday, March 14, 2011. The three portrayed some realities in the noteworthy language and symbol.
The popular detik.com criticized the use of incorrect English ‘’Take the Bus, No It’s Way’’ instead of the correct ones like ‘’Take the Bus, Not Its Way’’ or ‘’Take the Bus, Not the Way’’ as suggested by the policy analyst Andrinof Chaniago. The words stuck at the rear views of the buses operated by the TransJakarta had appealed non bus way chauffeurs, motorcyclists and bikers not to trespass and drive along the bus special lanes.
Not only in the capital, the ubiquitous mistakes in English spelling and composition could easily be found in other various forms and sounds in other cities throughout the country. Even the case of incorrectness appears on any pages of many local media, like the unconscious choice of diction in ‘’win or loose’’ or ‘’nothing to loose’’ rather than the correct ones of ‘’win or lose’’ or ‘’nothing to lose’’.
Since that kind of mistake does not create a real mess, let alone it appeared in the middle of the heating debate on WikiLeaks materials attacking some prominent political figures in Indonesia published four days earlier by two Australian papers, readers accustomed to news on conflicts, violence and serious politics –though much without immediate solution and ending—might view the news about the language mistake of the TransJakarta’s campaign less important despite of just poking fun at the bus way operator and Jakarta officials.
At least, surely it was while I was skimming readers’ comments following the news. ‘’Bus the way you are,’’ a reader wrote with smiling and laughing emoticons on the news portal modifying the title song of Billy Joel’s Just the Way You Are.
The others were politely and intelligently written. And the rest, oh my God, I think it’s the right time for some news portals’ administrators and editors in Indonesia to educate their readers by moderating their commentary entries to be in line with the mandate of Section 3 Article 1 of the Law Number 40/1999 about the Press which states that the function of national press is as the medium of information, education, entertainment and social control.
It’s regrettable why such language mistake still happened when the campaign material had been put in public views. Had it passed checking and editing by persons with proven knowledge and competence in English? Only persons-in-charge has known the answer.
But the TransJakarta operator, Jakarta officials and Jakartans not necessarily feel ashamed and quickly jump into the final conclusion that better not using English for almost all trespassers to the bus lanes are Indonesians. It seems more proper the campaign is written in Indonesian or even Betawi language proposed by Mr Andrinof. The operator had actually made it in line with, unfortunately, that of incorrect English.
Since Jakarta is becoming more global to the world and nobody could guarantee any foreigners in this city won’t break the TransJakarta’s lane barrier, however, the campaign is also as the warning for people coming from around the world to this capital and such warning written in universal language like English is both understandable and acceptable.
The best way, I think, is to comfort oneself by believing the linguists’ theory that learning a language is a risk-taking process and trying to express the language is better than doing nothing. What the detik.com had presented was a little thing for certain readers but it actually meant a lot. Not only giving the valuable input for the TransJakarta operator to immediately correct the mistake but also as the medium for Jakartans to learn English from the daily experience to be part of global society. The detik.com has done not only social control but has also educated society.
Meanwhile, the beritajatim.com carelessly picked the word cium (to kiss, kissing) as its title, ‘Cium’ Angkot, Pasutri Tewas, for news on the deadly traffic accident in the Jombang Regency, East Java Province. The spouses in their 60s died after a motorcycle they drove and a city public transport had collided. Though the word cium had been put in the double quotes, the inappropriate diction did not reduce or even eliminate its rough impression to other’s misfortune despite of greatly sympathizing or even sharing their sorrow (I wrote this kind of objection on the readers’ comments of the news portal).
And thestraitstimes.com brought news about public apology issued by the Malaysian newspaper Berita Harian over publication of a cartoon depicting the devastating tsunami in Japan on its Sunday edition, March 13. Drawn by cartoonist Mohd Zohri Sukimi, the cartoon showed popular Japanese icon Ultraman running away from an oncoming tsunami. The message could be whether the strong Ultraman, viewed as the representing symbol of Japan and Japanese, had been expected to challenge the destructive tsunami or had poked at their powerlessness before the natural disaster.
The cartoon had triggered a buzz on social networking sites on which public and politicians criticized the poor judgment of Berita Harian for the ‘’distasteful’’ and ‘’insensitive’’ work of journalism. The Malay daily also published the apology on its website, Twitter and Facebook accounts.
From the three news mentioned, we could draw the relationship between the press and society within the frame of their social control task. And whether it’s for artistic, prestigious and even sensational purposes, the press should not go beyond the limit by disregarding sensitiveness since no media could present the real truth. Media are just covering, recording, reshaping and presenting facts and events in their own languages and styles. What they could do is to get closest to the truth on the basis of available standards although the press must not be overconfident that their audiences are always willing to take their products for granted.
If media has the role of social control, then who should control the press? The answer is the public or society as the basis of its origin, existence and survival. In the society it exists, the press could laud its freedom but in its freedom there is also responsibility. Holding fast to the journalistic code of ethics is the ultimate way to become professional journalists in order to keep any demands of the society.
In this case, I do agree with the statement of the Head of Multimedia Department at Central Board of Indonesian Journalist Association Priyambodo RH during a seminar on journalism in Semarang last year. Quoted by the Suara Merdeka Cybernews on November 4, 2010, he said that freedom of the press ultimately belongs to the public who entrusted it to journalists and press organizations. Should journalists not been competent enough, the public could take the freedom back. It’s consciously or not the takeover has been in progress through several media like blog, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and citizen journalism.