He was in Australia as part of the Asia-Pacific Journalism Centre’sFellowship program, and the Australia Indonesia Centre caught up with him to ask him about Australia, environment, and some tips on living in Jakarta. 

pic2Bayu Maitra is one of the many bright young stars of Indonesian journalism. His article, Simalakama Hutan Asmat (‘The Dilemma of Asmat Forests’), about the forests in the regency of Asmat in Papua, won the Media Award from the Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (Indigenous People’s Alliance of Indonesia).

He was in Australia as part of the Asia-Pacific Journalism Centre’sFellowship program, and the Australia Indonesia Centre caught up with him to ask him about Australia, environment, and some tips on living in Jakarta.

What’s the most memorable experience you had in Australia?

Meeting the Australian experts in economy and environment. Nothing is more inspiring than meeting people who are passionate and dedicated to their fields of expertise.

Before coming to Australia, how did you imagine the country to be like?

My imagination of Australia, for a long time, was formed by reports from Indonesian television. More or less, the keywords are: progressive cities, individualistic people, liberalism, pro-US, dark history when it comes to indigenous issues, beautiful sceneries with a diversity of flora and fauna, one of the best places for music in the world, but it also has a weird sport (read: footy) and a weird accent. Hahaha.

And now, after five weeks in Australia, how do you summarise Australia in one sentence?

Australia is a positive place, and an interesting place to study and even to live in –I might even say it’s an ideal place for me.

How about Jakarta. Can you summarise it in one sentence?

Jakarta is a city that is challenging, but is developing in (hopefully) the right direction.

As you said, Jakarta can be challenging to live in. Do you have tips on how to survive in Jakarta?

Firstly, you have to have an extra dose of patience. You can see problems everywhere, and not all of these problems have solutions yet. So if you don’t develop a more relaxed and understanding attitudes, you might develop stress and insanity instead.

Secondly, you need to learn to be flexible and always to have a ‘plan B’ for everything. Things like the traffic and some people’s habit of not turning up on time might work against you and you have to know how to adapt.

Thirdly, keep smiling and watch the way you speak. Indonesians will often be nicer to you if you show humility and the ability to speak politely. You will gain trust of many people here if you show those attributes. And once you’ve gained our trust, we will treat you like a member of our families.

You’ve reported on some great environmental stories, and you are in Australia to develop your skills in environmental and economic reporting. What are some of the biggest environmental challenges that Jakarta is facing at the moment?

Firstly, the waste problem. Jakarta produces so much waste and this issue is not managed properly. And this problem is compounded by the lack of understanding from some people in Jakarta about the importance of proper management of the rubbish they produce.

Secondly, the privatisation of water. The 1945 Constitution of Indonesia states that ‘the land, the waters and the natural resources within shall be under the powers of the State and shall be used to the greatest benefit of the people’. But in reality, privatisation of water in Jakarta is still a reality and a problem.

Thirdly, the noise and air pollution. We are seeing an ever-increasing amount of motor vehicles in Jakarta. These days, it’s hard to breathe fresh air in the main roads of Jakarta.

How can media in Indonesia help people understand these environmental problems?

Through an increase of critical reporting. This is a must; media outlets must give more space to the coverage of environmental problems. This will help to shape the issue into the mainstream, and when that happens, people will be more involved. We have to realise that this is very important: other issues such as politics and security will not even be relevant any longer if the places where people live are being destroyed.

The media should also start sharing positive stories. Stories which are positive can be persuasive and inspiring to make people feel inspired enough to be involved. And the organisations which have been reported in a positive light will try to do more in supporting environmental causes.

Before we finish, can you tell us the three books or films which have inspired you in your life?

The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel. Put simply, this is like my holy book as a journalist.

Mahabharata, attributed to Vyasa. A Javanese shadow puppeteer once told me that “wayang adalah tuntunan, bukan tontonan” (Shadow puppetry is a guide to living, not merely a show). I agree with him. These wayang stories contain so much wisdom.

And Star Wars. For me, George Lucas taught us to dream and to imagine without forgetting about spirituality.

* This interview was conducted by Tito Ambyo and published at australiaindonesiacentre.org