KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 13 — Several veteran journalists say reporters always have to be at ground zero where the action is and, as such, they can be categorized as front liners as well.
The action may be an event, a natural disaster, a road crash, or a shooting incident, and reporting demands going down to the ground to get the best story.
It is no different also in the matter of covering events associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, such as lockdowns, roadblocks, food distribution and so on.
Tokoh Wartawan Negara (National Journalism Laureate) Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar said reporters have no choice but to report 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 they take risks going to places such as hospitals, areas isolated under the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) and COVID-19 quarantine centres to convey accurate information 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 in front,” he told Bernama.
It had been reported that several reporters were found to be COVID-19-positive after having gone down to the ground, including a reporter who had covered the Sabah state election last year.
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 as the first to receive the vaccine.
He said this was a necessity 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 of importance to them,” he said.
Chamil said that between 2,000 and 3,000 doses of the vaccine are sufficient to meet the needs of all the media personnel in the country.
Malaysia-Indonesia Brotherhood of Journalists (ISWAMI) president Abdul Rashid Yusof did not rule out the fact that technology assists journalists to report without having to go to the ground but said the human touch is 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.
“In fact, technology has pushed the speed limit for news by 100-fold. So journalists are always on the go,” he said.