The year 2020 was a rough one for the whole world, including Malaysia.
For media practitioners and reporters in the journalism industry, it was also a year that gave them a challenge and the experience of working during a pandemic.
Over the past year, Gerakan Media Merdeka (Geramm) exchanged views and share our experience through appearances in several online forums, organised by, among others, the International Federation of Journalists Asia Pacific (IFJ AP).
Following that, we entered into an official partnership with IFJ AP and the National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJM) for a multi-year project towards strengthening the Malaysian media landscape.
Aside from support of the local media, Geramm’s stand in solidarity with online portal Malaysiakini following a contempt of court charge against its chief editor, Steven Gan, was covered by Indonesian news magazine Tempo, through long-time support from Aliansi Jurnalis Independen, as well as by the Philippines’ Rappler online portal under the leadership of a regional journalism icon, Maria Ressa.
Not to be forgotten, efforts towards promoting press freedom continue through participation in the “Freedom of Expression Cluster” and the launch of social media campaigns in collaboration with the Center for Independent Journalism.
The coronavirus pandemic has proven the role of journalists and the media in channelling verified, up-to-date and quality information to the public, especially in a digital arena full of false, unverified, and inaccurate information.
Journalists, reporters, photographers, videographers and the entire media community are among those who were working throughout the year, including when millions of Malaysian were instructed to work from home throughout the implementation of the movement control order since March.
The media were also continually at the forefront in covering and reporting issues that arose during the pandemic, which was managed by the government, as well as matters affecting the people throughout the year.
However, the pandemic has also affected our friends’ source of income, such as when they lost their jobs or faced salary cuts.
In the year 2021, Geramm hopes to move several campaigns aimed at workers in the media industry:
- We want a campaign on paid news subscriptions to restore the tradition of good journalism and to enable media companies to survive. Since the Merdeka days, newspaper subscriptions have been seen as a means of providing support to a struggle and to ensure that news is spread and used as an instrument of democracy for the people. These days, the same support can be shown for online portals.
- We appeal to stakeholders to arrange skilled courses to train existing media practitioners to remain relevant in the industry. For example, media workers can be trained in digital publishing, working with digital equipment, and “multi-skilled” courses to enable them to continue work.
- When the digital world is full of unverified and inaccurate information, a campaign on freedom of information and expression must be strengthened and maintained by the right party instead of restricting press freedom here. We can see the Malaysian Media Council having a role to achieve the agenda to ensure that every Malaysian gets accurate and verified information on important issues.
- We support the call for the formation of a Malaysian media council comprising individuals who understand media policies, the struggles for press freedom and the industry. The establishment of a council or any forms of control from parties would be meaningless and would not achieve this aspiration.
Hopefully, 2021 will be a good year for the Malaysian media industry and its practitioners. We are in solidarity.