Malaysia conference offers journalists a ray of light in the dark
September 24, 2012 1 Comment
By Hannah Storm
INSI’s Deputy Director Hannah Storm has been in Malaysia at a regional conference for journalists. She represented INSI on a safety panel.
Today I learned that there is no local word in the Philippines for ‘impunity’. And yet there have been 153 examples of this in the past 16 years because that is the number of journalists whose murderers have got away scot free.
Despite this, the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines refuses to give up its fight to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of so many, whilst its members also strive to improve safety standards for the country’s media workers despite threats to their own security and attempts to silence them.
I’ve been honoured to spend time with the NUJP’s General Secretary Rowena Paraan this week at a regional conference for journalists.
She and I sat on a safety panel at the event, along with colleagues from journalists’ unions in Nepal, India and Pakistan, the most dangerous country in the region to be a member of the media profession.
We spend a lot of time in this business talking numbers, and even though it’s shocking to realise we are heading for one of the darkest years in journalism with almost one hundred media practitioners killed so far this year, we rarely have the chance to hear – and really think – about the remarkable stories behind those numbers.
This conference has allowed me that opportunity. It’s allowed me to hear the stories of some of the multitude of Pakistani media workers who have lost their lives as they dashed to cover explosions, only to be caught up in secondary attacks – a common technique that we talk to journalists about in our safety training.
I’ve learned about the tremendous work that Pakistan’s Federation of Journalists does to temporarily relocate journalists threatened by people who would see them silenced for what they report.
It’s allowed me to think about the children left behind after their parents were killed doing their jobs in the Philippines and the scholarship that the NUJP organises to help this children deal with their tragedies.
And it’s enabled me to see that what we teach in the classroom has to be balanced by the reality of the situation for many journalists. Because theory and practice become two disparate issues when you hear of the pressures faced by local journalists, desperate to feed their families and eke out a meagre living; journalists who will receive no salary unless they get the story, because so often they cannot resist the pressures forced on them by ruthless managers and owners who see them as expendable.
This conference, organised by the Asia Pacific offices of the International Federation of Journalists and Union Network International in Malaysia, and attended by journalists from more than a dozen countries across South and South East Asia, has taught me about individual cases of inspiring behaviour and devastating loss.
But it has also made me realise how much strength can be garnered from the shared desire by journalists’ unions from countries as diverse as Taiwan and Timor Leste, Pakistan and the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Malaysia to work towards ending insecurity and impunity. INSI will do all it can to help in that fight.
Hannah Storm is INSI’s Deputy Director.