It was a sunny morning when eighteen journalists from print and broadcast media walked out of Grand Nanggroe Aceh Hotel in Banda Aceh. They looked enthusiastic, heading to UNDP cars and mingling with their journalist fellows. Those journalists were not only from Banda Aceh but also from Meulaboh, Takengon, Lhokseumawe, Simeulue and Padang. They went to observe the application of Disaster Risk Reduction Concepts at Ujong Batee as the eye-opener part of the Media Briefing on Disaster Risk Reduction held on 28 September 2007.

The briefing was aimed to equip the journalists with sufficient knowledge of DRR. My idea was that the media persons are the front-liners of public awareness development in DRR. It is expected that the briefing will develop their sensitivity, widen their knowledge and encourage them to assist in developing public awareness on disaster issues. It is also expected that this briefing will strengthen the networking between UNDP and media.

The youngest participant, Ririn, a 19 year-old reporter from Suara Sinabang FM of Simeulue was a little nervous when she arrived in the morning. “I am shy,” she admitted, “…because I have not got enough journalistic experience as the others here, and this is my first training out of my office.” But only 40 minutes after her arrival, she sat comfortably at the front seat of the car, admitting; “it is exciting.”

The trip was aimed to introduce good DRR practices in real life, thus Robin Willison, the DRR Unit advisor guided them to a housing area in Ujong Batee. The neighborhood is only 300 meters from the beach but is safe from tsunami because they were built on the high ground. “You can see from here that they live very close to the hazards, but they do not have to become the victim when tsunami strikes. Their lives, homes, and properties will be safe even if major tsunami strikes.” Robin pointed to the sea, as the journalists were observing the view.

The sight from above the hill was paradoxal in the eyes of people who used to think that disaster was merely a fate that they cannot avoid. Hamzah, the chairperson of the Independent Journalist Alliance of Kota Banda Aceh admitted, “I see Ujong Batee with different perspective now. It is very interesting. Discussing hazard, capacity and vulnerability with Robin here got me the ideas of living safely with the living hazards around.”

After the trip they had a movie screening session and brainstorming on DRR concepts from the “Surviving Disasters: Earthquake” produced by the Discovery Channel. Amin Magatani, the Program Manager of MPBI, the Indonesian Society of Disaster Management, facilitated the session. Ramadan Fasting seemed to have no effect to the participants. Everyone was very active in the discussions as Robin explained DRR more about concepts in his presentation. As journalists, they have seen many phenomena, and read many data. The session was alive with comparisons on DRR theories to what they have learned.

Media lectures followed the DRR sessions. First lecture was on public opinion, facilitated by Nurdin Hasan, a senior print media journalist, and second on producing broadcast media news facilitated by Zulkarnain Lubis, a senior broadcaster. Both of the facilitators emphasized the power of media to develop public opinion and awareness. The journalists then wrote news scripts on what they have learned that day then presented their works to their fellows. The script reading round-up were bustling with ovations, as different journalists presented the scripts with different styles. Comments and inputs from the facilitators added the ones from the participants to improve the structure of the scripts and the way they were presented.

A whole day sessions then concluded as the Maghrib time signal rang. Everyone gathered in the dining room to break the fasting and enjoyed the dinner. On the questionnaire forms left in the meeting room, many of them wrote, “it is a good event”, “I learned something new”, and “we wish that we could have more regular journalistic training on disaster issues.” That day, they have seen different facets of disaster issues.

Again, I am happy to be in a place where I can share important knowledge to others.
Thanks to the media where I used to work, and all my trainers, without them I would never had any ideas of that day's media briefing at all. :-)