CHECK THE SMALL PRINT: CONDITIONS APPLY © Duncan Graham 2007
Have you caught up with the good news that our legislators want to change the Press Law? That they've time to consider the needs of journalists indicates that the nation's serious problems have all been solved.
If it's not too late may I suggest a few amendments? I know the best and brightest among the elected elite have been giving media matters the benefit of their refined wisdom for some time - but in case they've overlooked a point or two I offer the following suggestions:
Article One: All reporters must look like respectable members of the Fourth Estate and not like street thugs and layabouts. OK, I know many are – but do they really have to advertise it with bomber jackets and baseball caps promoting engine oil?
For some dressing down is a statement of rugged individuality, but that doesn't help the Uniform State. I reckon the system they have at Metro TV is pretty neat. All staff are kitted out in blue jackets and shirts, making them look like stewards on a PELNI liner with Surya Paloh as Captain Ruthless.
So blue has been taken. How about yellow? That should please Jusuf Kalla and help him start coming to terms with satire.
But isn't yellow the symbol of cowardice and aren't all journalists brave as bulls, I hear you ask. (Well I would if you bellowed a little more loudly.)
Red has already been cornered by Megawati – and who wants to be linked to losers?
Article Two; It will be illegal for photographers to snap leaders steering important visitors to their seats, unless the guests have impaired vision.
There is an important exception. Many politicians are blind to the real needs of the people so such circumstances legitimately warrant a hand under the elbow. These pictures will be permitted.
Article Three: Journalists who write opening paragraphs of migraine-inducing length, with clauses and subordinate clauses, each one referring to some obscure point that's absolutely unnecessary in the story, and which does nothing to enhance the topic, albeit one that has caught the public interest over the last few weeks and months, and which reflects on the state of the nation, as seen in the recent moves for more debate on this and other important issues, will be banned from opening their laptops.
Unless they work for Tempo.
Article Four: Cartoonists will be prohibited from putting the names of characters on their briefcases and instead will have to draw likenesses of the individuals so they're immediately recognizable. Have you ever seen anyone walking around carrying a huge wallet labeled TOMMY? Ridiculous – the man's a convicted criminal!
Article Five: The labor laws and our seniors must be respected. There are rules about using the aged and handicapped. Writers who employ crippled and exhausted clichés in their copy will be prosecuted for word abuse.
Article Six: The use of terms like 'seasoned observer', 'sources close to the President' and 'an official who declined to be named' will be banned. Journalists must tell the truth. The terms above should read: 'my Mum', 'Palace shoe-shiner' and 'Jusuf Kalla'.
Article Seven: Newspapers must not put four paragraphs of a story on Page One and the next 44 paragraphs on Page 31, thereby driving couples crazy who share one paper at the breakfast table. Editors who continue to offend may find themselves cited as co-respondents in divorce cases and have their publishing permits revoked.
Sorry, didn't you know press licensing will be reintroduced? Apparently the Bureau of National Intelligence has reported that certain unnamed subversive overseas elements are seeking to disturb the populace. So to protect the people it's essential only those approved by the government will be allowed to publish.
I've been told no reasonable person will object to this clause and I should check. Article 666 for definition of 'reasonable person.' "If you don't read the small print that's your fault," said Ministry of Truth spokesman Eric Blair.
He added that anyone suggesting this implies a dilution of democracy and curtailing of press freedom will have an opportunity to discuss their concerns with the relevant authorities. Apparently they'll be visiting selected editors just prior to dawn anytime soon.
(First published in The SundayPost 11 March 07)