KUALA LUMPUR: Several veteran journalists are calling for reporters to be categorised as frontliners, saying that these media personnel always have to be on the ground where the action is.
The action may be an event, a natural disaster, road crash or a shooting incident whereby reporting demands going to the source to get the best story.
It is no different in the matter of covering events associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, such as lockdowns, roadblocks and food distribution to those in need.
Tokoh Wartawan Negara (National Journalism Laureate) Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar said reporters have no choice but to report on all activities associated with Covid-19.
Citing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the former chairman of Media Prima Bhd and former editor-in-chief of Utusan Melayu said reporters take risks when they go to places such as hospitals, areas placed under enhanced movement control order and Covid-19 quarantine centres to get accurate information to convey to the public.
“However, it has never been mentioned that frontliners also comprise journalists. They should be (regarded as frontliners) because in any situation journalists are always at the front,” he said.
In fact, several reporters, including one who covered the Sabah state election last year, had tested positive for Covid-19.
It would not be too demanding, said Johan, for journalists to be included in the earliest groups of people to be given the Covid-19 vaccine based on the nature of their job.
Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) chief executive officer Datuk Chamil Wariya concurred, saying the authorities should consider listing journalists among the first to receive the vaccine.
He said this was necessary because there is a possibility of journalists coming across an asymptomatic carrier of the coronavirus while on duty.
“For example, they (journalists) follow leaders on visits to certain places where there are Covid-19 patients. They may be directly exposed (to the coronavirus) although they may have adhered to all the standard operating procedures.
“They have the important task of seeking information, conducting interviews and then channelling the information to the public. That is why the vaccine is important for them,” he said.
Chamil said that between 2,000 and 3,000 doses of the vaccine are sufficient to meet the needs of all media personnel in the country.
While not ruling out the fact that technology assists journalists to report without having to go to the ground, Malaysia-Indonesia Brotherhood of Journalists (Iswami) president Abdul Rashid Yusof said the human touch is still important in conveying the true picture of any event.
“The media is expected to humanise the narrative. To humanise a story, you are always going to require quotes.
“Yes, technology has aided this, but journalists must still go face-to-face,” he said.
“In fact, technology has pushed the speed limit for news by 100-fold. So journalists are always on the go.” — Bernama