Navigating Ethics and Empathy in Disaster Photojournalism in Indonesia

Elis Zuliati Anis(1*)

(1) Universitas Ahmad Dahlan
(*) Corresponding Author


This study is based on the scholars' critique of the Indonesian media reporting on disaster for focusing on vulnerable groups' suffering, sadness, and grief. The absence of comprehensive journalistic ethical guidelines for disaster published photographs in Indonesia, might contribute to the recurring choice and publication of such images in Indonesian print newspapers. Examining major disasters, including the 2004 Aceh Tsunami, the 2006 Yogyakarta and Central Java earthquake, the 2010 Mt. Merapi Eruption, and the 2015 Sumatra Forest fires, this research provides critical evidence for re-evaluating the Indonesian journalist’s codes of ethics, especially concerning the published photographs of disaster victims. Methodologically, this study draws on interviews with six Indonesian journalists and two media practitioners, exploring the ethical practices and dilemmas in photojournalism with a specific emphasis on disaster reporting in Indonesian print newspapers. The transcripts were analysed thematically, emphasising the repeating ideas or patterns present in the text. It also includes an analysis of three graphic/disturbing photographs from the 2010 Mt Merapi eruption coverage in Kompas and Kedaulatan Rakyat newspapers. The study highlights the complex balance between ensuring truthful reporting and honouring the dignity and privacy of those affected by disasters. It advocates for a nuanced method in disaster coverage that harmonizes journalistic integrity with a compassionate portrayal of victims. This research contributes to the discourse on ethical disaster photojournalism and has significant implications for policy development, journalist training programs, and the revision of journalistic codes of ethics, promoting a more empathetic and responsible approach in the field.


Indonesian media; visual ethics; photojournalism; disaster journalism; journalism practice

Full Text:



REFERENCES Ali, Z. S. (2014). Visual representation of gender in flood coverage of Pakistani print media. Weather and Climate Extremes, 4, 35–49. Anis, E. (2022). The visual representation of natural and human-made disasters in Indonesian newspapers. [PhD thesis, School of Social Sciences, University of Western Australia]. Arif, A. (2010). Jurnalisme bencana, bencana jurnalisme, kesaksian dari tanah bencana (Disaster journalism, journalism disaster, a testimony from a disaster area) Jakarta: Gramedia. Braun, V and Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in Psychology. Qualitative research in psychology, 3(2), 77-101. Bednarek, M. and Caple, H. (2016). Rethinking news values: What a discursive approach can tell us about the construction of news discourse and news photography. Journalism,17 (4), 435–455. Bednarek, M. and Caple, H. (2017). The discourse of news value: How news organizations create newsworthiness. New York: Oxford University Press. Bersak, D.R. (2006). Ethics in photojournalism: Past, present and future. [Master thesis, Department of Comparative Media Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology]. Dewan Pers. (2017). Buku saku wartawan (Journalist’ Pocketbook). Jakarta: Dewan Pers. Entman, R., M. (1993). Framing: toward clarification of fractured paradigm, Journal of Communication, 43 (4), 51–58. Galtung, J & Ruge, M. (1965). The structure of foreign news: the presentation of the Congo, Cuba and Cyprus crises in four Norwegian newspapers. Journal of Peace Research, 2 (1), 64–91. Griffin, M. (2010). Media images of war. Media, War & Conflict, 3(1), 7–41. Hoijer, B. (2004). The discourse of global compassion: The audience and media reporting of human suffering. Media, Culture and Society, pp. 513–531. London: Sage Publication. Lampito, O. (2015). Jurnalisme di cincin api. Tak ada berita seharga nyawa (Journalism in the ring of fire. No news story worth the loss of life). Yogyakarta: Galang Pustaka. Langton, L (2009). Photojournalism and today’s news: creating visual reality. Wiley-Blackwell. Lester, P.M. (2016), Photojournalism: An Ethical Approach. Routledge Newton, J. (2012). The burden of visual truth: The role of photojournalism in mediating reality. New York: Routledge. Santos Silva, M. Franquet., & Eldridge II, S. A. (2020). The ethics of photojournalism in the digital age. (1st ed.). Taylor & Francis Group. Shoemaker, P. J., & Vos, T. P. (2009). Gatekeeping theory (1st ed.). Taylor and Francis.


Article Metrics

Abstract views : 665 | views : 441


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2024 Elis Zuliati Anis

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Jurnal Kawistara is published by the Graduate School, Universitas Gadjah Mada.