The agreement, which will help to regulate working rights and conditions, was signed with management at Malaysiakini – a leading online news outlet. And new union President Farah Marshita Abdul Patah vowed that Malaysiakini would be the first of many such branches established across digital media workplaces.
The signing, which took place on the eve of the NUJM Congress, was witnessed by Timo Goosmann, the EU representative In Malaysia.
The agreement was made possible after NUJM agreed a change in their rules to allow online journalists to become full members.
Malaysiakini NUJ chair Haspaizi Zain said the branch, which has 26 new members, was formed to continue the outlet’s struggle for media freedom and to “fight for journalists’ rights”.
Farah Marshita Abdul Patah, who was elected the new President of the NUJM at the union’s Congress following the signing said she hoped the agreement would be the first of many and that it would end the gap between mainstream news organisations and news portals.
"We will all now be under one umbrella. We hope more portals will join us," she said.
In addition to the signing ceremony, NUJM also organized a forum to discuss the issue of mental health and the safety of journalists.
The event was followed by the union’s Congress which as well as electing new leaders also committed the union to a new strategic plan to strengthen the union, build its membership and prioritise the rights and welfare of its members.
Union members also passed motions on threats to the exercise of union leave, a demand for the repeal of Official Secrets Act 1972 and the Printing, Presses and Publications Act 1984 while urging the government to enact the Freedom of Information Act.
The IFJ has been working with NUJM and other partners to support media reform in the country – thanks to an EU-funded projects which aims to strengthen the capacity of media civil society organisations to instigate and lead sustainable development in Malaysia. Through capacity building of journalist unions and CSOs, the project aims to strengthen organisations internally through institutional reform and externally through the creation of solidarity partnerships and alliances. Journalists and media organisations will be supported to take a strategic role in promoting and advancing a strong, independent and diverse media in Malaysia.
Later this year the IFJ and NUJM, in partnership with the Fury Academy, will launch a training programme for 100 journalists covering mobile journalism, podcasting, monetizing new forms of journalism, environmental reporting, and investigative journalism among other topics.