Covid: Good news for media practitioners


Journalists undergo temperature checks upon arrival at Wisma Bapa Malaysia in Kuching before going to a press conference, in this file photo taken several days after the Movement Control Order (MCO) was announced and enforced in March last year.

KUALA LUMPUR (May 26): After several requests, the wait of about 6,000 media practitioners to be included in the earliest groups of people to be given the Covid-19 vaccine based on the nature of their job, is almost over.

The announcement by the Coordinating Minister of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, Khairy Jamaluddin, yesterday (May 25) is good news that indirectly recognises the role of the media practitioners, which are also frontliners, in efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Tokoh Wartawan Negara (National Journalism Laureate) Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar was among those who loudly championed the effort, including his latest, by writing an open letter to Khairy, published in one of the English dailies – “Reporters are (still) not Frontliners? An Open Letter to YB Khairy Jamaluddin”.

Just like the role of other frontline personnel, who until now are still fighting together to curb the spread of Covid-19, so too is the important role played by the media, especially since the pandemic hit the country more than a year ago.

Perhaps the letter, as well as the insistence voiced by other media practitioners, prompted the government to make the positive move on the same day the letter was published.

For Johan, this is certainly not his effort alone, but of the entire media, who hope that the government realises the importance of those who continued ‘campaigning’ tirelessly on Covid-19, to inject public awareness to jointly fight this pandemic.

“Alhamdulillah. This is what we want, journalist are regarded as frontliners. This joy is not only for me but also for all other media practitioners. I welcome the immediate action from Khairy to provide over 5,000 doses of vaccine to media personnel.

“This shows the government’s concern in ensuring that media personnel get necessary protection, as they are exposed to the Covid-19 threat like any other frontline personnel,” he told Bernama.

Khairy, during a virtual press conference on the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, with Health Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, announced that a total of 5,867 media personnel, from 114 registered media agencies, will receive the Covid-19 vaccine injection in the near future.

The decision, according to Khairy, taken by the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF), is in line with the government’s decision to give priority to frontliners, including teachers and media practitioners.

Media practitioners risk themselves daily by going out to the field to report news, including from areas at high risk of outbreak such as hospitals, areas placed under the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) and Covid-19 quarantine centres to convey accurate information to the public.

It has been previously reported that several media practitioners tested positive for Covid-19, after having gone down to the ground, including a reporter who had covered the Sabah state election last year.

Hence, it is very important for this group to be inoculated immediately, as has been done by Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi), who has recognised his country’s media practitioners as frontliners, and allocated 5,000 shots for the group, which was announced during the commemoration of the 2021 National Press Day in February.

“Although the vaccine will not protect a person 100 per cent, as they can still be infected with the virus, the severity of the disease can be reduced.

“This (vaccine shot) will also give confidence to media personnel to continue providing news coverage without fear and apprehension, when it comes to covering news at places where there is a high risk of outbreak,” said Johan.

Certainly, what the media expected now is that the announcement was not just an empty talk, but to be implemented immediately, especially in the current situation of Covid-19 cases which continue to rise, and high mortality rates, especially with the existence of new aggressive and rapid variants, that make the virus more violent in attacking the human body. – Bernama