Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Pubic's Internet Power: Prita Mulyasari and Citizen Journalism

When one sends an e-mail to a friend, or even a group of friends, complaining about poor service you received at some public institution, you do not expect to suddenly find yourself in jail or in the middle of a highly publicized lawsuit. This is however, exactly what happened to Indonesian mother, Prita Mulyasari. Prita’s case has caught the attention of the global village and it has risen to international and internet fame through the persistent and widespread support of her case. In America it seems unthinkable to imagine something like this actually happening, but, thanks to the efforts of online supporters, the news of this injustice has been made public to the world. To set up the case, a bit of back ground information; Prita Mulyasari was admitted to Omni Hospital in Banten, Indonesia. While Ms. Mulyasari was at the hospital she received treatment that would make anyone whom has been to a hospital shudder. After being misdiagnosed several times and being put through a hellish battery of shots and doctors she wrote an e-mail to some of her friends detailing the horrendous treatment that she received while at the hospital. An English translation of the letter is available on the blog, Indonesia Matters . In the letter, Ms. Mulyasari details the ridiculous way she was treated while under the care of Omni Hospital and the seeming indifference of the doctors that attended to her. After sending the letter, from her private e-mail, it somehow became pubic and the hospital filed a civil suit against her for defamation. In the end, Prita was charged, imprisoned and fined rp 204 million. After the decision, the public outcry was momentous, the local paper, The Jakarta Globe has had near constant coverage of the case, and groups even working with donors to pay off her fines. At this time it seems that justice, even if it is late in coming, has come for Prita. The hospital has offered to drop their civil suit against her, however, only if she will agree to drop the countersuit that she has against them.
This case has not only brought to light the injustice that Prita suffered but has also shown the power that the electronic public can have when working together for a cause. The internet has made global communication accessible and affordable for people across the globe, and is beginning to truly unit the world as a connected global community. Prita's case has shown what can happen if enough voices are heard. The internet also allowed the world to quickly hear of Ms. Mulyasari's plight; a Facebook group (while in mostly Indonesian is still informative) was set up to garner support and raise global awareness of the injustices of the case and the blogsphere is filled with individual and organizational blogs on the topic. This case is, in my opinion, a perfect example of Axel Bruns' idea of "citizen journalism." In Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond, Bruns discusses the traditional model for journalism or the "three stages of conventional news procedures", which follows a pattern of the news being selected by a closed group of journalists and editors that is trickled to the public. Citizen journalism breaks that mould by allowing the public access to news from their sources by way of internet. Bruns discusses:
Although the initial stories may consist of barely more than pointers to new information and news items elsewhere on the Web, citizen journalism extends them by enabling its communities to comment on such stories and thereby buildup more detailed, communal understanding of their background, context, and impact, as well as evaluating the information contained in the initial reports and combining or contrasting it with other available information (75).
This idea is shown within the Mulyasari case in the way that the global electronic community came together to share the available information and not allow the more powerful hospital to cover-up the story. It is interesting to speculate if this type of public exposure is the future of journalism in the information age. How long can traditional means of communication such as television broadcasts and newspapers keep up with the lightning fast pace that the internet can provide? We can only hope that future innovation in communications will continue to bring the world together in both news and tradition.

No comments:

Post a Comment