I would like to apologise for not being able to blog since Monday. Over the last two days, the Parliament has been abuzz, not only with the proceedings, but also with the happenings outside the respected hall. On Monday, news organisations were told by "authorities" in Parliament, that they could only send five media personal to cover Parliament sittings. This new ruling had irked journalist. To make things worse, on Tuesday, the "authorities" were at it again, this time "cordoning" off reporters from the Parliament lobby. Although, I am a first time MP, I had served as a senator for two terms and have become accustomed to many journalists, who are now my friends. The second move was the last straw for many journalists.
"Datuk, do we look like some insane people that we need to be cordoned off and wait for MPs (which include Ministers and Deputy Ministers) to hold press conferences, like dogs waiting to be thrown a bone," one newsmen asked me. This was his mildest remark or question!
The "authorities" revealed that these measures were to ensure security. I don't buy this one bit. Reporters and cameramen use different entry and exit points. Their identity is checked. They need not one, but two tags to get in. We all know the regular faces, although some many be newbies. The Parliament house is fitted with CCTVs almost at all angles. In fact reporters are asked to go through a metal detector before entering the building. What more security do you need? Maybe the authorities would like to do a strip search next?
Two nights ago, I met up with some of my journalists friends and asked them to explain on the workings of a media organisation in Parliament. "They are letting five reporters per organisation, is that not enough?," I enquired.
The explanation given to me was in full and after listening, I realised that indeed five was not sufficient, if an organisation was to provide full coverage of the proceedings. If the government wants the people to know what is being debated etc, then it should allow more reporters to cover instead of restricting them. The one hour question and answer session, requires at least two to three reporters. This number could increase if the PM or the DPM were answering questions. Then you have unscheduled press conferences by Ministers, Deputy Ministers, the Opposition leaders etc. That requires another reporter. Then you have the "boss" who clears copies in Parliament so reports are coordinated and to ensure there is no duplication in reporting. Now you tell me, do you expect these reporters to work without rest for the whole proceedings, which sometimes drags up to 10pm? Surely they would need to take turns to take a breather. So, my conclusion is five is not enough! Allow them to bring in whatever number of reporters they think is appropriate. Let them do their job.
On cordoning off the lobby, I certainly do not agree with this! These newsmen, know the dos and don'ts. They behave and are a courteous lot. The "authorities" have said that some people (outsiders) are conducting birthday celebrations in the lobby and one way to stop this is to cordon off reporters. Does this make sense? For me, it definitely does not! Treat them with respect. Journalists might earn a lot less than what the MPs are getting, but they are, for me, the most important component of the system. Without them, whatever you do, whatever you talk and whatever you think, stays within you. Why upset the very people you are supposed to keep happy? For me all this just does not make sense.
It would be good if those in charge of making such rash decisions, hire a media consultant to find ways to keep the newsmen happy, without undermining security. This can be done with ease. Let the consultant come up with a proper guideline, which is agreeable to all. Views of the media in drawing up the guideline is paramount. We do not want a guideline which does not take into account the views of media practitioners. This would definitely work and ensure journalists are free to do their job without any hassle.
I would like to finish this post with a point made by a journalist friend the other day.
"Datuk, journalist are like chefs. When a chef makes a dish, he or she must put some passion and love in what is being cooked. If the chef does not do this, the dish would not have anything extra, as it would be just another dish. But if the chef, puts these two important ingredients in cooking the dish, then the end product would have that extra zing and taste delicious. The same with journalists. If the reporter is happy and likes what he or she is writing, then the report would be off good quality. These new rules in Parliament certainly does not make a reporter happy, so what do you expect of Parliament reports?"
I replied:" Point taken and noted brother."
p/s: Euro scores -- Germany 3 Turkey 2. (although Turkey lost, they deserve a pat on the back for the good show during the whole tournament. I wish the Malaysian team that much of grit. If they did, we would be a force to be reckoned with in Asia alongside Japan, Korea and such).
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