Feature: Community radios help educate Indonesian public about COVID-19

by Hayati

JAKARTA, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) — Hundreds of community radios in Indonesia have used their channels to help educate the public about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among them is Rasi FM, which is based in the Cisewu sub district, Garut district, in the province of West Java.

Rasi FM founder Latief Rochyana said that in the early stage of the COVID-19 outbreak, misinformation and hoaxes flooded the social media and the confused residents were worried about where to get the truth.

“There are massive amounts of COVID-19 information. Rasi FM has helped with sharing useful information and verify some unverified information,” Rochyana told Xinhua on Saturday.

Rasi FM has been creative in its approach. There was a moment when a Rasi FM presenter inserted COVID-19 facts between music intervals from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. local time. The presenter explained the basic things such as what COVID-19 is, how dangerous it is and how to prevent infections.

Another job the community radio has done is the program called the public service advertisements or ILM which lasts one to two minutes. This program, produced by the Indonesian community radio network, JRKI, has campaigned about keeping social distance, using face masks and washing hands with soap.

Occasionally, Rasi FM broadcasts talk-shows by bringing such competent speakers as medical experts and police officers to the audience.

Recently, Rasi FM collaborated with secondary schools and training institutions to broadcast educational materials when some residents could not join remote learning activities due to internet connection failures.

All of the programs at Rasi FM are run by 15 people and all local residents who have jobs ranging from farmers to motorcycle taxi drivers.

“Here, ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers operate only during the day. At night they can broadcast on the radio,” said Rochyana.

In Poso, Central Sulawesi, Mosintuwu FM, which has since 2015 been reporting on community and social issues, is now focusing its efforts on becoming a COVID-19 emergency radio.

Lian Galigo, the radio founder, said multifarious COVID-19-related hoaxes have travelled even to most remote villages in the region, ranging from conspiracy theories to benefits of eating eggs before sunrise to prevent the COVID-19 transmission.

“As a result, people have been hunting eggs and flocking to the market,” she said.

Mosintuwu airs its programs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time in Indonesia, speaking the local dialect.

One of the programs is called Kabar-Kabar Desa or Village News, which is on air every day from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. local time. The program is based on collaboration among 80 villages in the Poso district and surrounding areas. Through the program, the audience can listen to news about the COVID-19 from other villagers.

“Thus, the emergency radio does not just broadcast information and clarifications from doctors, government officials and the COVID-19 task forces. Residents themselves can strengthen one another and give ideas about what should be done,” Galigo added.

There is also a broadcast in Pamona, the local language of the Poso district with broadcaster Ngkai Uwa, a 66-year-old white-haired grandfather, on Saturdays at 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. local time.

“Mosintuwu FM presents daily COVID-19 cases using the culture and perspective of local people here,” Galigo said.

Chairman of the JRKI Sinam Sutarno said the COVID-19 emergency radio movement has been running since March when the pandemic hit Indonesia.

They have been using information from the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health and turning them into audio material before being broadcast by hundreds of community radios throughout Indonesia.

There are also radios that invite COVID-19 survivors or tell the audience to be critical in sorting out information. At least 102 of the 457 JRKI member community radios broadcast this information.

Sutarno said the movement has become easier because many community radio activists have joined the COVID-19 task forces in their respective villages.

For a long time, community radios have served as sources of information at the time of disasters in Indonesia including the 2004 Aceh tsunami, the 2009 West Sumatra earthquake, the 2010 Mount Merapi eruption, and the 2017 Poso earthquake.

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