Wednesday, June 25, 2008

No coverage for you

I have to applaud the local media for their great (if belated) display of backbone. Parliament's administration recently banned journos from entering the lobby, citing "security reasons". This is an important area for the press because press conferences are held here, and journos also have the opportunity to approach ministers and MPs directly to get comments. This week though, the area was cordoned off with red tape, and security guards were stationed around the perimeter. Yup, literally red tape.

In response, journos boycotted almost all press conferences, and photogs downed their cameras. They even snubbed the PM's and deputy PM's press conferences! This would have been unimaginable during the Mahathir era.

I fully sympathise with these journos and photogs because I've had the misfortune of covering "garmen" events before. Many ministers and deputies have a condescending, even hostile attitude towards journalists. Even in the rarefied field of IT journalism, everyone hates to cover "minister events".

Also, Parliament is one of the toughest beats for journos. Not only do they have to deal with deadline pressure and stiff competition, they have to get the story absolutely "right" and "perfect" because Parliament stories get a lot of scrutiny. Plus, they need to deal a lot with spin doctoring, backtracking, and "after the fact-ing", as in "what he really meant to say was...". Sometimes, a journo is even accused of misquoting or mishearing a minister, even though the statement is on tape, and clearly audible.

Sin Chew Daily executive editor-in-chief Kuik Cheng Kang said it best - “Reporters are there to do our jobs, not celebrate birthdays. Please do not punish us for working.”

(Pic credit: The Star)

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