Malaysia: Union calls for cooperation amidst national lockdown

Malaysia’s national journalism union has requested cooperation from Malaysia’s government as well as media and non-media workers in addressing restrictions to media freedom under Malaysia’s latest emergency order. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJM) in calling for greater focus on journalist safety and the introduction of measures such as online press conferences be implemented.

Police check documents of motorists at a checkpoint in Kuala Lumpur on January 13, 2021, a day after Malaysian authorities imposed tighter restrictions on movement to halt the spread of Covid-19. Credit: AFP

Due to a rapid increase in Covid-19 infections, NUJM has requested that all press conferences, including those of government and private agencies, be conducted online and ‘in person contact’ limited. Those asked to provide comment to media are requested to cooperate when contacted. NUJM also requests special reprieve for journalists when passing roadblocks and for assistance in covering stories and conducting surveys in public places.

On January 12, at the request of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, a state of emergency was declared by Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah and scheduled to last until August 1. As a result, the government has been granted extraordinary powers while parliament is suspended during this period. On January 16, Malaysia reported eight new deaths and a record 4,029 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections nationwide to over 155,000 with a death toll of 594.

Journalists and media workers are among the most vulnerable to Covid-19 while performing their work, however, safety and the importance of an unimpeded press is too often overlooked, NUJM said.

NUJM said: “NUJM would like to remind all media personnel to always take the necessary precaution when on assignments and comply with all the standard operating procedure (SOP) practices set by the government.  Any media worker having COVID-19 symptoms is advised to go immediately to hospital for screening tests and if infected to adhere strictly to the mandatory quarantine instructions. The number of media practitioners currently on duty is decreasing; they not only need to cover Covid-19 issues but also flood, political, court and even criminal coverage. Therefore, it is the duty of NUJM to ensure the safety and welfare of media personnel so that the latest and accurate information can continue to be channeled to the public.”

The IFJ said: “The implementation of restrictions in Malaysia should not impede the work of journalism in informing citizens at this critical time. At the same time, governments and leaders should also be giving duty of care to the media to ensure that information can be reported safety and that journalists are not exposed unnecessarily. The IFJ calls for cooperation between Malaysian media workers, government, organisations and citizens in ensuring the safety and continued functioning of the press."

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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