By INS Contributors

BANGKOK (April 27)--The National Union of Journalists Peninsular Malaysia (NUJ) has decried what it described as “leakages” after it emerged that members of a certain media outlet were vaccinated against COVID-19 even while other media personnel have yet to receive their shots.

NUJ president Farah Marshita Abdul Fatah has expressed regret over the matter, as most media outlets and news portals under its umbrella have not received the government's green light for vaccination

"Media practitioners are already recognised as frontliners, like other uniformed organisations, because their work requires them to be on the field all the time.

The union also pushed for the Health Ministry to take the matter seriously and expedite vaccinations for media personnel adding that it had submitted a list of media practitioners to be prioritised since last March but no answer had been given.

A separate media grouping Gerakan Media Merdeka (Independent Media Movement) decried the revelation as “vaccine favouritism”, expressing concern that not being vaccinated could mean certain media outlets will be barred from covering news.

"If the media had previously faced problems getting equal access to coverage, it is extremely regrettable if the government also plays favouritism with providing vaccines," it said.

It is understood that the country’s Health Ministry and Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, which is in charge of Malaysia's national COVID-19 immunization, had yet to reply to queries on the issue.

The “vaccine favouritism” comes on the heels of Malaysia dropping the furthest in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index after falling 18 spots to number 119, major setbacks on press freedom being imposed by the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, including  a recent “anti-fake news” decree allowing the government to impose its own version of the truth.

“It led to the adoption of a so-called 'anti-fake news' decree enabling the authorities to impose their own version of the truth, a power that the neighbouring city state of Singapore (down two at 160th) has already been using for the past two years, thanks to a law allowing the government to 'correct' any information it deems to be false and to prosecute those responsible,” it said.

Commenting on the overall global press freedom, RSF said the index showed that journalism, the main vaccine against disinformation, was completely or partly blocked in 73% of the 180 countries ranked by the organisation.

RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said journalism is the best vaccine against disinformation.

“Unfortunately, its production and distribution are too often blocked by political, economic, technological and, sometimes, even cultural factors. In response to the virality of disinformation across borders, on digital platforms and via social media, journalism provides the most effective means of ensuring that public debate is based on a diverse range of established facts,” he said.