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New Mobile SMS Service Helps Indonesian Villagers Hold Company Accountable

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  • Harry
    The first message came by text on October 17 from a cell phone in rural Indonesia, and it quickly got results – a surprising and encouraging turn of events
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 16, 2011
      The first message came by text on October 17 from a cell phone in rural
      Indonesia, and it quickly got results – a surprising and
      encouraging turn of events for the new citizen journalist who sent it.

      "One hundred residents of Sei Enau village … are defending their
      lands," it read in the native Indonesian language. It was the very
      first SMS message sent through a new communications system developed by
      Knight International Journalism Fellow Harry Surjadi, in partnership
      with Ruai TV. The system enables citizen journalists trained by Surjadi
      to text reports to Ruai SMS where they are confirmed and then sent via
      text message to subscribers, who include other villagers and citizen
      journalists as well as police and government officials.

      The message came from Adrianus Adam Tekol, a newly trained citizen
      journalist who lives in the village about three hours from the city of
      Pontianak, where Ruai TV is located. He reported that local villagers
      were protesting a company they felt was violating its legal obligations
      to hire local villagers, repair damaged roads and turn over some
      property to area residents in exchange for use of the land.

      Within three days, residents managed to get a rare meeting with the
      company. Police and government officials were also present. Tekol
      credits the SMS system with building public pressure on the company to
      agree to the meeting. It was penalized, and has begun recruiting local
      workers and making needed road repairs.

      "Before, we negotiated with a sword," Tekol said, referring to
      the occasional violence between villagers and companies arguing over
      land use. "Now we negotiate with a cell phone."

      "This was an important story because until now indigenous people
      have not had a voice, have not been able to interact with mainstream
      media or have any platform for expressing their concerns," said
      Surjadi. "Now, as more and more people learn how to send messages,
      and begin to understand what it is to be a citizen journalist, they
      have a new kind of power. They are better able to defend themselves,
      and to communicate when there are problems to be addressed."

      The new service launched in mid-October. So far a total of 106 citizen
      journalists have been trained, and 170 subscribers are signed up for
      the service.

      "We expect to get more every day," Surjadi said. "As the
      service grows, we expect more people to sign up and start using it."

      http://www.icfj.org/news/new-mobile-sms-service-helps-indonesian-village\
      rs-hold-company-accountable
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