If the local media’s display of yellow ribbons or black front pages is considered a preface to the World Press Freedom Day yesterday, then the decision last night to establish an Institute of Journalists (IoJ) must be the kick-off to a new era for Malaysian journalism.
Some 80 journalists, many of whom are veterans or editors in news outlets, gathered at National Press Club to discuss the formation of an independent body to advance the noble profession.
The attendees unanimously agreed that a body is needed to represent all journalists in a single organisation that will speak out on all professional issues affecting them, issues that neither the National Union of Journalists nor the Malaysian Press Institute undertake.
“(The institute) should be the equivalent of the Bar Council, the Malaysian Medical Association or the Institute of Engineers, which are professional institutions with the duty to safeguard the interests of their professions and raise standards.
“Tomorrow’s Malaysia and tomorrow’s journalism will be shaped by what we do today,” veteran journalist and a former executive editor of The Star, Gobind Rudra (left), said when explaining the concept behind IOJ to those present.
The attendees later passed a resolution appointing, among others, Sin Chew Daily group editor-in-chief Siew Nyoke Chow, The Malaysian Insider’s chief executive officer Jahabar Sadiq and Gobind to a working group to flesh out the institute.
IOJ to be vocal and apolitical
Gobind said the group would take the necessary measures to incorporate or register the institute and submit a petition signed by more than 2,500 supporters for the government to address acts of violence against members of the media.
In the wake of the police brutality on journalists covering the Bersih 3.0 rally last Saturday, many attendees also expressed their wish for the IOJ to take a more vocal and apolitical stance.
“The violence is unprecedented. We have to make a stand and ensure that our press tag is respected by all.
“I do hope that this organisation can take a more activist approach to defend our profession,” Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan told the gathering.
Briefing those present earlier, Gobind said the idea of setting up the IOJ was planned more than a year ago, but was put off after the government announced its move to set up a press council, together with its intention to amend the Printing Presses and Publications Act.
“I was afraid the press council will, if set up, affect all journalists,” he said.
Gobind added that he got fresh impetus to continue to pursue the idea for the IOJ after The Star’s group chief editor Wong Chun Wai and theSun’s political editor Zainon Ahmad joined the self-regulation body initiated by the government.
Those who attended the supporters meeting of IOJ yesterday observed a one-minute silence in respect for Bernama TV journalist Noramfaizul Mohd Noor who was killed in Somalia last year. Malaysiakini