Reporters are (still) not frontliners?


I find it perplexing that the government can’t even spare about 2500 doses or less of vaccines for reporters. They have been in the forefront covering and reporting stories on the pandemic since Day One. They have been with ministers like your goodself, with health, police and military personnel, with patients, family of the infected and those who succumbed to the pandemic.

The saddest part of the entire exercise is that you and the government can’t even recognise them as “frontliners”.

You expect them to report “facts” and “truths” and chastise them for reporting what you believed is against the strains of the narratives you wanted to put forth. Conveniently some of your colleagues expected the media practitioners to be the spokespersons for the government.

You and your colleagues are quick to point out the mistakes of my bothers and sisters in the media. Media organisations from abroad have seen how the government reacted on “unfavorable” reports. It is unthinkable that at this moment of time we treat the media the way they were treated before 2018.

The dynamics are changing, so too the media landscape. Media companies are reeling from the impact of current challenges and competitions from other platforms. The demand for them to be fair, just and balanced is palpable or else they will be punished by their readers, viewers and listeners,

We have seen how decade-old news organizations crumbled under the new forces of media landscape.

They are operating in a totally different atmosphere now. But my brothers and sisters soldier on, regardless. They have work to do, not appeasing any party or interests. They have to uphold the credibility of the media, one that depends on fairness and accountability.

It is their moral obligation to bring news to the public without fear and favour. And in a pandemic like this one, at a high personal cost. Reporters die in conflict areas.

But this is a different theater of war altogether. The Covid-19 pandemic is infecting almost 167.5 million people worldwide or almost 5 times the population of Malaysia. It has so far killed 3.4 million people.

In Malaysia it has infected more than half a million people and contributing to 2,300 deaths already. And things are getting worse by the day.

We are at war, no less. It is the most serious health crisis we have ever encountered.

My brothers and sisters in the media are out there, in rain and sunshine, in hot spots and among vulnerable populace to report on the pandemic and its consequences, regardless. Many are already infected. At the forefront of the rampaging viruses, what do you expect them to do? Stay home and stay in the office?

Many are registering on their own for their vaccines. It is sad isn’t it?

Yet with those millions of doses of vaccines that the government have administered so far, you can’t even spare 2,500 doses for them?

President Jokowi announced on Indonesia’s National Press Day (Hari Pers Nasional) on the 9th of February this year that he recognized reporters as “frondliners”. He has allocated 5,000 doses for them.

Is that too much to ask for?



Tan Sri Johan Jaffar is a National Journalism Laurette. He was the chief editor of the Utusan Melayu group in the 90s and former Chairman of Media Prima Bhd. He is a columnist for the Star.

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