*links in red lead to Youtube videos I made on Kampung Buah Pala*
I am a citizen journalist. I am not quite the journalists from the mainstream media. Yet, I am not the meek or disinterested bystander.
It started one hot afternoon on 6th June 2009. Citizen journalist Jimmy Leow and I were alerted to a press conference at Kampung Buah Pala in Bukit Gelugor. It was exciting initially because that’s our first ‘holding banner, protesting’ drama for us to cover.
We had just finished our citizen journalism training under Malaysiakini and we love to get our hands on some sensational story. However, that soon dragged into a month of visits to this village where I tend to step on cow dung and even dog’s poo.
Soon, the thrill of covering a dramatic story begins to make me wonder if I am really into citizen journalism. My initial focus was on the needs of the villagers. I was really taken in by the elderly folks and the mothers with young children. I am a sucker for human stories and will jump deep into helping people.
The idealistic me has that saintly, fuzzy, dreamy idea that I can save the world with my story and my camera. If the villagers want to see the CM, I am even brave enough to write to the CM through his official email (which one can easily find on the website of the Penang state government) why he must see them. I know he won’t do it, so I make a video on Kampung Buah Pala folks so that the CM can watch from the comfort of his office what goes on over there. I hope that will somehow change his mind.
I am that committed to see that whatever transpires get the attention of the people it is intended to be. For example, whatever one lawyer tells me, I will re-check with the other lawyer. The villagers seem to have divided into two groups and they have two lawyers who are telling me that the other is not the appointed one.
Sometimes, I wonder if I am their mediator or devil’s advocate. I just cannot stand around, as a citizen journalist and just take whatever they are saying without reminding or telling them what the other party is saying.
I attended press conferences by the CM and also the DCM. I have a lot of questions to ask the CM but he is not someone you want to mess with. Once, he chided a reporter for asking question without knowing the answer or consequences. Another time, he cut a reporter’s mid sentence because she was getting annoying, trying to fish for another answer to a question asked earlier.
Then, there are even more questions I want to ask the villagers’ representatives. Come to think of it, I think I am more afraid of the villagers than the CM. With the CM, all I get is probably a ‘don’t be stupid look’ or he probably will layan me because I am simply….me!
But with the villagers, I won’t dare. Once, I asked one guy, “Have you all asked Koh Tsu Koon about this case? “ He was so pissed and glared at me with a look that can kill. He said, “BECAUSE the current government is in power!” And he walked away, disgusted.
When I was in Malaysiakini’s office, their editor will give them assignments at 6 pm everyday. Editor will give the reporters the number of questions to ask, what to ask and send them out. But me? I am doing this on my own initiative and the only reason I dare to venture to the CM’s office is because I know I play the role of bringing what goes on at the ground level to the 28th floor. And vice-versa.