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ACEH'S MEDIA STAGE COMEBACK AFTER TSUNAMI

The tsunami that wreaked havoc on Asian coastal communities in December 2004 had a particularly harsh impact on media in the war-torn Indonesian region of Aceh. Roughly 100 of the region's 1,000 journalists lost their lives and 70 were forced to live in camps, according to one estimate.

But nearly one year after the devastating event, media in Aceh are staging a comeback and finding it freer to report the news than before, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Writing in the latest issue of CPJ's magazine "Dangerous Assignments", freelance journalist Shawn Crispin says almost all of the 45 or so radio stations hit by the tsunami are now back on air.

TVRI-Aceh, the only local television station, has also resumed broadcasting, and the popular daily newspaper "Serambi" is back on the stands despite losing 54 of its 200 staff, as well as its offices and printing press.

Conditions for reporting the news have become less restrictive following the tsunami, notes Crispin. The Indonesian government has relaxed many of the restrictions it had imposed on reporting in Aceh, allowing local and foreign journalists to access tsunami-affected areas.

The public hunger for information about reconstruction efforts in Aceh has also allowed local media to report more freely.

And in August 2005, a peace accord was signed between Indonesia and Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels to end a 30-year civil war.

In response, local journalists are testing new boundaries. "Before the tsunami, we had pressure from GAM and TNI (the Indonesian military)," says "Serambi's" chief editor Syambul Kahar. "Even when we wrote a balanced story, still both sides were mad with us. Now nobody is pressuring us. We can play an independent role."

Read the full story, entitled "After the Flood" in "Dangerous Assignments": http://www.cpj.org/Briefings/2005/DA_fall05/DA_fall-05_FINAL.pdf

Visit these links:

- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/attacks04/asia04/indonesia.html
- CPJ's 2003 Report on Aceh: http://www.cpj.org/Briefings/2003/aceh_03/aceh_03.html
- IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?Index=2907&Language=EN
- Profile of Serambi: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/63715/
- IJNet: http://tinyurl.com/a5o86
- Radio 68H and Tsunami Aid in Aceh: http://tinyurl.com/bqwjt
- Aceh Media Center: http://www.acehmediacenter.or.id/
(Photo: Internews)

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