REPORTING ON VIOLENCE AND EMERGENCIES Regional Media Conference for Southeast and East Asia Manila, Philippines 14 October

2011 Panel 2: The role of media in protecting the most vulnerable Zainon Ahmad, Consultant Editor, The Sun Daily (Malaysia) Role of Media in Protecting Migrants

Talking Points ------------------Many roles of the media. More and more roles have been given to the media of late. Originally just to inform. Maybe with a little comment at first but with more comment later. In line with the role of a watchdog. Some equate this to being a busybody. By what right? Under watchdog role --- it protects the environment, protects forests, protects children, protect women, protects about everything. Protects everything that needs protection including, of course, press freedom. And now the media must also protect migrants. Do migrants need protection? Of course they do. Easy to come to that conclusion by just observing, and reading daily reports about them. In Malaysia there are close to four millions of them. About 1.6 million legal migrants and the rest illegal. From Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, China, the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Vietnam. Documented workers, undocumented workers and asylum seekers.

---- some subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude in the domestic, agricultural, food service, construction, plantation, industrial and fisheries sectors. Live in squalor. Some are victims of sexual exploitation, some victims of domestic violence.. Some are victimized by their employers, employment agents or traffickers who supply migrant labourers and victims of sex trafficking. Debt bondage. Foreign workers --- multi-billion ringgit enterprise. Big bucks. Even some officials are involved. Malaysian media do not shy away from covering plight. Bad employers, “ugly Malaysians”. Court cases given wide publicity. Even affects bilateral relations. Especially with Indonesia. (Cases of good employers. Provide training. Education.) Picture stories of where they live. Accidents. Insufficient protection given in some accident prone work places. In oil palm estates. Construction sites. Complaints of being underpaid. Low salaries, one of the reasons why they are recruited. Complaints of not being paid. But not all of them are the compliant, subservient workers. Some are schemers. Cases of employers becoming victims. Some are involved in crime. Slums, ghettoes. How to end the never endind problem?

1. Refugee swap deal? 2. Transfer the problem? 3. Encourage locals to take jobs migrants are performing. 4. On-going programme “to solve the problems of foreign workers” amnesty and biometric registration. Thank you.

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