By Ali Imran Mohd Noordin
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – If it is possible, we journalists too want to #stayathome. But we cannot do that as our job demands are such that we need to be in the field.
Under the Movement Control Order (MCO), broadcasting is among the sectors deemed essential and as such, journalists, photographers and videographers have to be on duty.
If we don’t work, then who is going the keep the public informed on the developments in the country? Worse still, if we are not around, the “alternative” media will have a field day and feed the people with all kinds of fake news.
Local (mainstream) journalists have been closely following developments concerning COVID-19 since December last year and praying non-stop that it will not flare up.
When the then Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad announced the first COVID-19 case involving a Malaysian citizen, reporters covering his press conference guessed that they were in for a long haul where the disease was concerned.
However, not long after that, changes started taking place in the nation’s political landscape and we wondered if anyone realised the extent of the danger posed by the coronavirus outbreak. Big crowds could be seen gathering here and there for the sake of their political struggle.
To be fair, at that time there was no restriction on mass gatherings. Even the Super League football matches went on as scheduled.
At that point in time, the COVID-19 cases in Malaysia were under control and there apparently was no cause for concern among the public.
However, our fear almost became a reality when we found out that a politician was suspected to have been in close contact with a person who was tested positive for COVID-19.
In a WhatsApp group comprising local journalists and the Ministry of Health, some reporters who had come into contact with the politician concerned asked if they had to quarantine themselves, and whether it was necessary to sanitise equipment such as their microphone.
Some media organisations ordered their staff involved in assignments involving the politician to sanitise all their equipment and to get a health screening done.
Meanwhile, following the announcement of the MCO by the prime minister, all media organisations had to reorganise their manpower, use of office and such things.
Going on assignment during the MCO period is not an easy ride for media practitioners. They are wondering why press conferences are still being held when platforms like FB Live can be used to speak to the media. Or can’t the authorities just issue press statements?
Yes, journalists are worried about their safety too as they have families to take care of.
However, not all matters can be conveyed to the media via the use of technology. In order to be the eyes and ears of the public, reporters have to be in the field to get the correct facts. Photographers have to be present at police and army roadblocks to get an accurate picture of the goings-on there.
Reporters also have to visit public places and interview people for their articles.
We are grateful that organisers of media conferences are taking the necessary precautions, such as limiting the number of reporters allowed to cover the event, checking their temperature, making hand sanitisers available to them and providing seating arrangements in line with the social distancing protocol.
Along with news stories, media outlets are also now busy producing videos, infographics and posters to make it easier for the people to understand matters related to the MCO and COVID-19.
Infographics are especially useful for those who are averse to reading lengthy articles. Infographics are created by a team of graphic artists who have expertise in this field.
Since this process requires directives from editors and tight filtering of information, graphic artists work more efficiently in the office. Many of them may not be able to work from home as their personal computers are not equipped with the necessary software to create the graphics.
Yes, not all media staff can work from home. The technical workers, security guards and cleaners all have a part to play too to ensure media organisations operate smoothly.
We journalists can’t sit in the office all day. To produce news, we have to go out and move around. But deep in our hearts, some of us wish we could #stayathome too.
In the meantime, we will be your eyes and ears. You just stay at home. The news will come to you.
Don’t venture out just because you want to take a selfie of yourself with the empty roads and shopping malls in the background. We journalists will move around on your behalf. You just stay at home.
(The views expressed here are the writer’s own.)
Translated by Rema Nambiar
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