Newspaper vendor

Is the writing on the wall for journalism?

The poser was – who is killing Malaysian media?

It was an eye-opener theme for the forum on Sept 14 which drew a motley crowd, including undergraduates from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Dengkil campus. The event, co-organised by the Malaysian Institute for Debate and Public Speaking together with the Institute of Journalists Malaysia (IOJ) and the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, was to bring together hearts, minds and views to create awareness and enable society to voice out present day critical issues.

For some, journalism is a profession. For others, it’s a calling or vocation.

As Malaysiakini co-founder and editor-in-chief Steven Gan paraphrased it, “not everyone can hack it on the news floor”.

Overworked and underpaid remain the litany of woes for many scribes but it’s always those with that hardened stomach for news who remain. The rest view the job as a stepping stone to pay bills.

Last year, over 30 journalists were killed in the line of duty. The most brutal episode remains the slaughter of Jamal Khashoggi. Tributes continue to pour in for fallen comrades to remind all who conveniently let their deaths pass on.

Closer to home, former Bernama TV cameraman Noramfaizul Mohd Nor was killed after being hit by a stray bullet in Somalia in 2011.

Despite better judgment, he was assigned to the hot zone. Today his name remains etched on the Journalists Memorial at the Newseum in Washington DC, thanks to the efforts of the National Press Club of Malaysia.

The Sunday forum saw Gan’s fellow panellists, IOJ chairman Lau Chak Onn, Melisa Idris from Astro Awani, Karangkraf general manager Ahmad Nazri and The Star’s A. Asohan talk about their years of service on the newsroom floor.

Fellow scribes seated among the audience waited with bated breath for someone to answer the question that was set as the theme of the forum but that nut-cracking moment never arrived.

No one answered the question or presumably they feared the likelihood of a backlash should they have pointed fingers at who is responsible for killing the media.

Irrespective whether one is aligned to the left or right, events which unfolded in recent months concerning the media have raised eyebrows. The closure of several English, Bahasa Malaysia and vernacular dailies, despite takeover offers, does not augur well for the industry.

It would seem the politically connected cigar-chomping or golf-playing owners would rather bring the curtains down and render loyal employees redundant without decent compensation. It would seem there is a far bigger sinister agenda at play what with present day newsroom politics and affiliations.

And those who walk Putrajaya’s corridors of power are aware of this malaise if whispers are anything to go by.

Media barons and their political connections would these days rather pay peanuts and not be bothered about the quality or veracity of what is being dished out.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had recently expressed concern over deep fake technology, adding this has made it more difficult to grasp what is read or heard over social media.

He has stated the obvious but how this is being addressed remains unanswered. Likewise, the poser at Sunday’s forum too was without an answer.