Veteran Indonesian journalist Parni Hadi urged Muslim journalists to apply principles set out by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in their work to enhance their credibility.
Addressing the International Islamic Media Conference in Jakarta on Wednesday, the former chief of Antara news agency also called for the establishment of an international Muslim media development center in Indonesia.
Hadi, who has 40 years experience in journalism, spelled out the four principles set out by the Prophet (PBUH) as truthfulness, dissemination of the truth, reliability and trustworthiness.
He said Muslim journalists of today have much to learn from the Prophet who had practiced what he had professed.
“It must be admitted that many leaders, preachers and media professionals in the Muslim world have not yet implemented what Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had said and done. They talk too much with less action and their actions are often contrary to what they say,” he said.
Hadi said freedom of expression, independence and objectivity are prerequisites for Prophetic journalism to give optimal results. He emphasized that Muslim journalists should work for world peace, justice, and economic and social well being as well as to create an atmosphere for people to achieve mental peace.
Spelling out his experience in the field, he said democracy is a basic requirement for journalism to thrive. He said while he was working for Antara he had faced a lot of difficulties from governments of different countries.
“We should enhance people-to-people contact to progress in the media,” he said while talking about the growing influence of the social media.
Hadi also spoke about Republika, the largest circulating Islamic newspaper in Indonesia. It was established by the Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association in 1993 and he was its first publisher and editor in chief. He asked Indonesians why Republika is not the No.1 newspaper.
“We want to be No. 1. The secular media are dominant because of several reasons such as quality, professionalism and public acceptance due to ideological and political perceptions," he pointed out.
As a social activist Hadi has been successful in combining his Islamic propagation work (dawa) with humanitarian activities. He set up Dompet Dhuafa Republika Foundation, better known as DD, which literally means Purse for the Poor in 1993. DD’s funds are disbursed for three main empowerment programs: interest-free revolving funds for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), free health care and free education for the poor.
“The success of DD is not just in the steady increase of collected funds, but also in an ever increasing awareness of Muslims in paying Zakat and the public trust in Muslim fundraising foundations, which are professionally managed with a high standard of accountability,” he said. In addition to 65,000 fixed donors, DD is now backed by corporate social responsibility funds of domestic and international firms.
Hadi urged Muslim governments and officials to be friendly with the media and extend their helping hand to change the situation in the Muslim world for the better. He also urged participants to involve themselves in the production of information as journalists, writers, contributors, speakers and publishers.
Several resource persons also figured in the conference, including Abdul Rahman Al-Shebaily, a prominent Saudi writer and former member of the Shoura Council, who presented a paper on “Media in the Muslim Community in the Changing World;” Muhammad Sallam, director general of Iqraa Channels, “Successful Satellite Islamic Channels & Websites;” and Prof. Malek Al-Ahmad of King Saud University, “Taking Advantage of Technological Means in Serving Islamic Media.”
Other speakers of the day were: Dr. Ali Shummo, former minister of information in Sudan; Dr. Nasser Bu Ali of Sharjah University; Dr. Hemdi Aboelenen, vice president of International University, Egypt; Prof. Azyumardi Azra of State Islamic University Jakarta; Mohamed Arafa, member of the Egyptian Journalism Association; and Mohammed Harrath, CEO of Islam Channel London.
A number of Indonesian Muslim women actively participated in the conference, asking questions, making proposals and interacting with speakers and other delegates. Labibah Zain, a social activist and blogger, protested the absence of women speakers in the conference and requested the organizers to include women in future media conferences.
Soraya Fadhal, a lecturer at UAI, Jakarta called on the Muslim media to present Islam in an appealing manner, focusing on its humanistic and environment-friendly teachings.