With the Ministers and media representatives after a press conference at the Ministry of Health
This is in relation to the episodes of press conferences hosted by the Ministry of Health which is normally held at the Ministry of Health. I never had any expectations, really. I was more about being concerned with my health and also the safety of my family members at home. It was just a matter of time before the pandemic hit our waters and for a little moment, the whole nation was on the verge of panic. I still remember the Public Relation Officer from the Ministry of Health approached me and asked if I could be part of the media team as they will provide information to share with the public. That was the moment I realized how important role I can play in disseminating information as many were craving for the right information.
Yang Berhormat Minister of Health replied to my question on why PCs are important. YB Dato shared that this source of medium is able to keep the public well equipped with the right information and also it will help to dispel any rumours (quite common in Brunei) that can create unnecessary panic among the public. Come 8 months, I can see the positive impact on the press conferences and also a huge thanks to the other media agencies that has helped in sharing vital and true information for the public to digest.
Of course, being invited to be one of the media personnel, is a privileged. It also has its drawback, well, for my case. It’s more about my responsibility as a netizen to be consistent and constantly educating my readers on what has been shared officially. There is no room for second guessing or speculation per se. Whatever I share to my friends and readers, the information must be verified and true. If possible, I will just share my thoughts based on the facts presented from the MOH and that’s how far I will go.
I am blessed that I can play a part in people’s life in sharing information, based on the numerous calls, Whatsapp messages, Insta DMs and in real life. I always have taken information for granted but these press conferences have made me become more alert and aware, on how I should present myself and always double checking my fact findings. Yes, I really do feel the pressure but at the same time, I also wanted to help the community. It came to a point that I was mentally challenged as my daily routine was just absorbing covid news 24/7. I seriously don’t know how the other reporters handle this especially the media celebrity James Kon. Honestly, covid news consumed my daily life and it took a toll on me. It affected me emotionally and physically. I hid myself in the my room like a caveman. I avoided seeing my family members at home and just focused on my own health and safety. This cycle went on for weeks and at one point, my body was heating up a little and I panicked as it could a related symptom of Covid-19. Ah, it was a really terrible feeling.
I do feel bad in not replying some of the questions put forward but there were just overwhelming and it was a one man show. I felt like the Yellow Pages, or in this era, the Google, for Brunei related covid updates. The hardest part was putting a calm, collected face when being confronted by strangers who sought for information. Yes, I was criticized at times for the questions I raised during PCs. Simple questions, silly questions, good questions, and there will be never be any satisfaction.
Now, I am gonna just share what goes behind the scene during the Press Conferences and this is from my point of view.
Firstly, if you were to dig my brain, here is an insight on how I approach in providing questions and honestly, this is no easy feat and if you’re in my position, you will understand. The questions are mostly collected and written down on my notepad. I will screen them first and you will be surprised some of the questions you thought may be silly to you but it’s very relevant and important at the same time for the public to know. There are times I rather not asked these particular questions but because there is a huge demand (based on messages from the public), the PCs become the best platform to answer even how obvious or silly the questions can be. To my experience, this strategy somehow worked. This is also beneficial from the relevant ministries especially the MOH in giving factual information that are sometimes not included in the press statement by the respective ministers and press releases. The additional and impromptu questions did add more weight and gives the public more assurance. Because of the nature of the Q&A session, the public kind labeled it as a mini-Legco session.
Secondly, the answers from the respective Ministers feels like “gazetted” (if I were put it that way) which means that it is quoted by the Ministers and hence, the information is verified to the satisfaction of the public. The print media has also played an important role too as the readers will also read verified information and quotes from the Ministers and it will remain as a fact. So rather than myself giving what information I gather, the articles posted by Borneo Bulletin, Media Permata, Pelita Brunei, The Scoop, The Bruneian and other media agencies, will solidify the facts and people will be more confident rather than hearing or believing speculations. We as the media representatives can be easily judged by the public on the questions that are put forward but the questions themselves need to be asked and very relevant especially in the first few months of the outbreak in Brunei.
Thirdly, the questions now are now usually vetted which means the questions will be screened an hour before the press conferences. Some people may get the wrong idea but there are reasons questions need to be vetted. One obvious thing that I can pick is asking the relevant questions to the relevant ministries. There were times questions put forward didn’t involve the respective ministry and it will be put YBs in a difficult situation and it won’t look favourable should the Minister deflect the question. There were times when the media personnel was asking a question that has already been answered during the press statement. This also shows the complacency that we play a part that we weren’t basically listening or perhaps didn’t understand what was being addressed at the time.
Now that being said, I know the questions that we asked have been “questioned” by the public and some media representatives including myself, have been bashed. But I do hope you do have the compassion and understand deeper on the things that we have to go through and cater to the public to ensure we present the right facts and information. Sometimes those silly questions whether you know it or not, do have an impact on people’s assurances. I remember asking YB Dato Minister of Health on predicting the tipping curve. Some appreciated I asked the question, some didn’t. Well, honestly, I have been watching BBC, Astro News, CNN, and this was a common question asked by the media and I thought this would be an interesting question as an indicator.
On that note, I do want to convey my apologies to those I haven’t replied (just too many) on their questions and also for my lack of professionalism as a source of media, if any, during press conferences. I am not a certified journalist to begin with and I am doing a huge favour for the MOH and they are truly appreciative how much I have contributed. I have learnt a lot by just being part of the media team and it has been a rewarding journey. I will do my best to improve and I appreciate all the comments (positive and negative).
Huge thanks to the Ministry of Health in appointing my services and this shows a level of trust and reliability in disseminating the right information to the eyes and ears of the public. It also create good rapport with the Ministers and the people behind the scene. I wish to share more. Perhaps I can leave that for another time.
This is Rano, signing out and till next time 😀