The media landscape around the world has changed in recent times, more so in Malaysia.
Some have called it an ailing industry – with job cuts reported in most news organisations to the shutting down of dailies due to business models that failed to evolve.
And even the National Press Club (NPC) of Malaysia seems to have lost its lustre with the gloom hovering over the industry.
The elders often reminisce about the “good old days” where journalists, corporate leaders and even government officials bantered, laughed and made a difference at the Jalan Tangsi clubhouse.
Newly elected NPC president Datuk Ahirudin Attan said the first major event for NPC will be World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
“The clubhouse hasn’t opened its doors for dinners for a long time so we should be planning for a media get-together during World Press Freedom Day. Also, it’s a freedom-friendly time now, so we should take advantage of that,” he said.
Ahirudin began his journalism career with The Star in 1985 before moving to the New Straits Times Press group where he went on to become the editor of Business Times. He has the distinction of being Malay Mail Editor twice. He was advisor to The Malaysian Reserve for a brief spell and now runs news portal The Mole.
Better known as Rocky, Ahirudin was NPC president from 2003 to 2007 and 2009 to 2013.
Ahirudin was once again elected as president during the club’s 27th annual general meeting on March 27 for the 2019-2021 term. Twentytwo13 editor Haresh Deol and managing editor Pearl Lee were elected NPC deputy president and committee member respectively.
“I first became president of the club just before Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad stepped down and I’m now back as president of the club with Dr Mahathir back as prime minister … the same prime minister but totally different political landscape.”
Ahirudin explained how NPC was at the forefront of the formation of the media council, an effort which has been going on for decades but without much success.
“Right now we have several media organisations like the National Union of Journalists and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Malaysia that are joining forces to give it another go … we should go back to what we have done all these years and meet our fellow journalists from these clubs to see how we can ride together as we share a common interest.”
“The new exco has no time to pause. We have to ride on the momentum and get stuff going.”
Ahirudin added there was a need to strike a balance between the elders, many of whom have left newsrooms, and the younger breed of media practitioners.
“The main answer is to be united. Journalists in Malaysia are quite scattered … so many new platforms and then there’s old journalism, new journalism … it has fragmented the industry. I see the media council as one way to unite everyone for a common interest.
“You see journalists face lawsuits, journalists forever have to contend with low pay, workING long hours and then you have those with health issues. So if we can start by taking care of our basic interests under the media council, then we can start uniting our interests and find a common ground between the young and old.”
“Even the National Press Club can create activities, gatherings, networking sessions and look into the welfare of journalists. We don’t have to try too hard to attract the young or old, they will eventually gravitate towards us. That’s what we should aspire to do.”
National Press Club 2019-2021 committee
President: Datuk Ahirudin Attan (The Mole)
Deputy President: Haresh Deol (Twentytwo13)
Vice-President: Muharyani Othman (Bernama)
Secretary: M. Govind Nair (Bernama)
Assistant Secretary: Joan Santani (Bernama News Channel)
Treasurer: K. Sivanesan (Makkal Ossai)
Assistant Treasurer: L. Jaiarajo (Bernama News Channel)
Pearl Lee (Twentytwo13), Zaharin Mat Noor (Bernama), Mohd Ismail Rashid (Bernama News Channel), Muhd Zaidi Azmi (The Mole), A. Jeyakumar (Bernama News Channel), SP Manivasagam (Mannan Monthly), T. Ananthan (Majalah Mannan) and S. Baskaran (Iniyaval Monthly).
Advisor: Datuk Mokhtar Hussain (Bernama)
Trustees: Datuk Nuraina Samad, Tony Emmanuel and Datuk Yong Soo Heong