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Reporting Aceh emotional for Najwa JAKARTA - Visions of battered Aceh and North Sumatra provinces struck television reporter Najwa Shihab last month with something she thought she had already knew: What journalism is all about. With her distinctive radiance Najwa may appear to be just like any other TV reporter-cum-anchor, with more unkind critics even suggesting that she is a bit overrated.
Such critical views of Najwa no doubt multiplied when she welled up and unleashed raw emotion while reporting live from pulverized Aceh a few days after the calamity. Words of censure abounded, especially from fellow journalists, who labeled the Metro TV journalist as "unprofessional" for letting her own emotions show too clearly.
"I don't know why they made such a big fuss about it. It was something I didn't plan. Sadness and sorrow were indeed what I was feeling at that time," Najwa told The Jakarta Post recently. "Yes, the odor was bad and the view was terrifying. But it was more than that ... it was seeing survivors struggling to dig into the rubble to find their relatives; the empty and somber expressions; the hysterical survivors; all that affected me more.
"Then there was the feeling of guilt for not being able to help, which intensified my emotional response," she said. As if to justify herself, Najwa quickly added that what she did was what anyone in her situation might have done. "To report this tragedy, to let the outside world know about it, to let them know that this is really big and these people really need help. It was, like, how could I convince you that there was a really serious tragedy taking place there?" she reflected.
Taking the criticism in her stride, Najwa was without regret saying that it did not bother her. She believes that what she did could in fact be good for the world of journalism. "So far, the rule has been to remain dispassionate. But in such a catastrophe I really think it's OK to do that. Besides, Metro TV didn't oppose it, so why should I be bothered?" she said, with a look that sought agreement.
She conceded, "No, you can't please everyone. But as long as there are positive results from whatever you do, then that's good. "I've also had feedback from people who say they were touched and moved. Those who believe it was a sincere reaction while reporting the event. Perhaps it would have been bizarre if I had been well-dressed, made-up and acting like it was business as usual," Najwa argued.
Born on Sept. 16, 1977, Najwa holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Indonesia law school. She is a mother of a four-year-old boy and admits to being an avid fan of acclaimed novelist John Grisham. She also enjoys spending time reading "chick-lit" and watching romantic comedy movies. Najwa launched her career as a reporter when she started as a trainee at RCTI TV in early 2000, later joining Metro TV in August 2000 when it first aired.
"Although what I'm doing now is in a completely different field to my educational background, thankfully I can still use my knowledge to provide better comprehension when covering stories with political and legal dimensions," she said, adding that such topics were indeed her favorites. Najwa said she saw herself being active in journalism for many years to come, as there were still many challenges she wished to take on in this field.
"One of my favorite experiences thus far was when I helped produce a show called Tribute to Indonesia: We managed to assemble all five pairs of presidential candidates on the eve of the first election round last year. Also, I interviewed (former Malaysian deputy prime minister) Anwar Ibrahim after he was released from jail," she enthused. Apart from the criticism she received for her Aceh reports, Najwa learnt much more from this unique experience.
"I had a chance to tell the world about the struggle the Acehnese are going through. Their struggle to survive and to find their missing relatives. This profession gives you a different kind of reward ... we're actually doing something. "Before then, I always said that I wanted to be a journalist simply because we get to meet different people every day and face different things. But after Aceh, I realized that this job does much more than just that."



Posted in Aceh conflict @ 21 January 2005 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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