MPI release
Do not let the Fourth Estate’s work go to waste

Do not let the Fourth Estate’s work go to waste

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By Datuk Yong Soo Heong – May 27, 2022

The role of the media as well as challenges and opportunities facing it have often been debated to the point of almost ad nauseam.

But here’s a new twist: how about challenges and opportunities under Industrial Revolution 4.0?

And that’s the topic to be expounded at the National Media Forum organised by the Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) in Melaka on Sunday.

The event is held in conjunction with the launch of the National Journalists Day, or Hari Wartawan Nasional, 2022, or better known by its acronym, HAWANA 2022, by Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Presumably, HAWANA is expected to be a yearly affair to mark the important role that journalists undertake in society by providing information to the people so that they can make informed choices.

The importance of the media cannot be overstated here in that it serves society by providing investigative reports, debates, discussions, background analysis and topical news stories.

The media informs as well as entertains, there’s no doubt about that.

For Datuk Hussamuddin Yaacub, the Chairman of Kumpulan Karangkraf, which publishes the Sinar Harian newspaper, he sees the staging of HAWANA as a significant step towards bringing back the original principles of journalism in terms of its professionalism, pride, authoritativeness and integrity against what he terms as a slide in journalistic principles through chequebook journalism.

Hence, there’s much that the media forum can dwell upon given that MPI has invited several senior editors from newspapers and news portals, top news executives, academics and seasoned veteran journalists to air their thoughts.

Perhaps there should be much to chew on against the backdrop of dwindling newspaper subscriptions and diminishing advertisements among print publications, increase in online advertisements by tech giants, onslaught of news from online news aggregators linked to tech giants and independent news outfits, propensity of consumers to rely on free offerings from news aggregators, proliferation of fake and slanted online news, security of tenure for journalists and challenges in multi-tasking in today’s fast-paced journalism world.

In a world that’s plagued by tremendous cynicism as a result of widespread corruption and scandals, it’s pertinent that watchdog journalism be supported with greater gusto and hailed as an important step towards making public officials, businesspeople and others to be more accountable.

By being the Fourth Estate after the executive branches of the government, legislature and judiciary, the media has a major responsibility to the masses.

This is especially so in publicising issues that have a direct or indirect impact on society and subsequently demanding responses from public officials or parties implicated in the matter.

Given that the prime minister has seen fit to be present and accord a special day for journalists, it is hoped that he’ll highlight the far-reaching roles that they play in mirroring the nation’s consciousness, achievements or even setbacks.

In this regard, it would be very helpful if he could direct the attention of government servants to issues and complaints frequently raised by the public through news organisations, and to act on them almost immediately.

For example, in the area of the environment alone, we’ve been treated to a never-ending barrage of issues involving river pollution, air pollution and water supply disruptions due to contamination, illegal construction of dwellings and factories, forest degradation, reduction in forest habitats for endangered animal species, poor enforcement at all levels and the ineptness of certain agencies or ministries, to name a few, and they don’t seem to end.

When is the prime minister going to wield the big stick and ensure that government officials don’t just mouth motherhood statements that lead to nowhere in resolving pressing issues?

It’s crucial that he sets the seal for the government apparatus to pay greater heed to the Key Happiness Outcome of the people as their wellbeing will determine the success of his much-touted “Keluarga Malaysia”.

Otherwise, the painstaking work of journalists will go to waste and be akin to the Malay proverbs of “bagai hujan jatuh ke pasir (like rain falling on sand)” or “seperti anjing menyalak bukit (like dogs barking at hills)“.