OVER the last two years or so during the Covid-19 pandemic, we have often forgotten to pay tribute to the other, non-obvious, frontline workers: journalists, photographers and other media personnel. They have often been the forgotten heroes who have had to overcome challenges and face hardships on a daily basis to bring us the news, both good and bad.
At times, they have been accused of being biased, of cowing to authority, or of being partisan. But they bear with all these accusations and never waver in bringing news to us, via radio, television, newspapers and magazines.
Today, May 29, is recognised as National Journalists Day 2022, so designated to commemorate the date in 1939 when Malay newspaper Utusan Melayu was established.
It is a fitting tribute to the unsung heroes of the media whose practitioners are often among the first on the scene of a crime, an accident, or a disaster like a landslide and are always present at important national and social events. In fact, they never miss a beat when it comes to keeping us informed and abreast of events and occasions that impact our lives on a daily basis.
So besides recognising today as National Journalists Day, what can we, the public, do to help them along the way? What should be done by the government to ensure press freedom, independent journalism and freedom of information?
It’s time for the government to review all legislations related to restrictions on press freedom and enact legislation that will contribute to freedom of information.
How do we help our journalists overcome challenges, to avoid the half-truths, fake news and deliberate red herrings that they are often fed or subjected to?
The answer to some of these questions lie in the training of journalists. Perhaps there should be a body established that accredits journalists, similar to professional organisations that set standards for professionalism.
It may be useful to give journalists the kind of training and tools that will help them to separate the wheat from the chaff, think critically, to resist intimidation, and give the public all the news that is fit to print.
If the public wants independent journalism, as we are entitled to, we must do our part to make it happen. We must give journalists proper recognition and support.
We must also ensure that they have safe working environments, including providing them with personal protective equipment when necessary, similar to those supplied to other frontliners.
In short, we news consumers must do our part to ensure that news providers have the right tools and the protection to allow them to serve us well, and without fear or favour.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
Alliance for a Safe Community