Datuk Ahmad Talib (1951-2020) dalam kenangan

Datuk Ahmad A. Talib, tokoh wartawan yang meninggal dunia pada jam 5.42 petang pada 26 Mei 2020 pernah menjadi pengerusi Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) antara 2004 hingga 2008.

MPI ingin mengucapkan takziah kepada keluarga Allahyarham atas pemergian Allahyarham.

Sebagai mengenang jasa Datuk Ahmad A. Talib dalam membangunkan kewartawanan Malaysia, berikut disiarkan tulisan mengenai Allahyarham yang dimuatkan dalam buku The MPI Story yang baharu sahaja diterbitkan.

“For most journalist, Datuk Ahmad A. Talib was a leader and a friend. This view was not limited to the company that Ahmad served but it was true among journalist that had worked with him searching for news or when they were in a social gathering and especially to those who was involved with the journalist. Ahmad’s friendliness, (he was affectionately called Tok Mat) was encompassing whether it was with the journalist of his time or to the newcomers in the world of journalism. There were times when Tok Mat was inclined to make jokes during the waiting sessions of a press conference. Tok Mat was not awkward to anyone even if he was with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and other minister including political leaders, chief executives, corporate figures and anyone that he met in teh tarik place.

When at a press conference or a meeting with anyone, especially in a session to gather news, Tok Mat often became the backbone of the journalist. Anyone who saw Tok Mat in a news event felt instant relief because their workload would be lighter since Tok Mat will surely ask more questions.

Tok Mat began his career in the news agency Bernama in 1972 and later in the group newspaper company The News Straits Times. Often, Tok Mat became the saviour when it comes to asking diverse questions for writing news. Unsurprisingly, Tok Mat was also skilled in asking “trap-questions.” In an international press conference, Tok Mat did not care who was on stage whether it was the Prime Minister or a President of a powerful nation. When question and answer sessions opened, Tok Mat did not hesitate to take the opportunity to raise his hand, introduce himself and fired questions. This was one of his ways to be satisfied in the world of journalism.

He wanted to prove that Malay journalists were of their own class and did not let a session to be controlled by foreign journalists. For him, Malaysian journalists must draw out news from an angle or perspective that was only possible from the questions of a Malaysian journalist. Questions that were asked by foreign journalists whether they were from Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse (AFP) were after all made to get news from their angle, perspectives and interests. 

Tok Mat regularly reminded the journalist especially those from his company: “we must ask questions. Do not let others, especially foreign journalists to monopolize a media conference or a question and answer session in an event.”

The questions by Tok Mat were typically linked to answer that contained news values which were prized by every journalist. This was his practice since he was a young journalist and this practice continued to stay with him even when he held high positions in the press and electronic media company. Although Tok Mat held the Group Editor role in The News Straits Times (NST) and later as Executive Operation Director in Media Prima, he persisted and continued asking questions when he found himself in a news event.

When handling the program ‘Question and Answer” in TV3, he had no problem to ask questions rapidly and consistently in whatever topic even though he was alone facing three panel members. His experience serving in different ‘desk’ including the news desk, especially when he was the Chief News Editor in NST who handles political, social, educational, criminal and court news had made him extremely skilled in asking questions even in a live broadcasting. When he worked with Business Times Tok Mat also became a journalist who specialized in workers’ union issues. He additionally wrote in a column, “Sweet and Bitter” in the New Sunday Time which had many followings. Once in a while he would write in Berita Harian newspaper if he had something in mind for the Berita Harian’s audience.

Tok Mat was not a controversial writer. He did not write to hurt people’s conscious. He sincerely desired for the audience to feel excited with light topics that could connect to universal appeal. He wrote to share his experience with the readers telling what he saw, heard, and felt. It was not often but once in a while he would write on a hot issue which became a widely discussed topic.

In the company, Tok Mat was well loved by many journalists and staff which included the backup staff. This was because, Tok Mat was a champion representing National Union of Journalist (NUJ) which fought for the rights and welfare of the workers. As the leader of NUJ, he had experience with negotiating with the managements, especially with dealings concerning collective agreement that affected the workers’ facilities, welfare and many others. When he held the senior management position, Tok Mat negotiated on behalf of the employers. In this aspect, he had the advantage of negotiating seeing that he understood the interests of both—the employer and the employee.

Due to his deep relations with the employees, Tok Mat had supported many of the demands of the workers especially those concerned the worker’s welfare. Occasionally, his generosity to the workers had made impact on the employers who agreed to the reasoning that Tok Mat gave. Tok Mat had, for example, appropriately convinced the employer to fulfil the demands of the employers to received payments in lieu of accumulated holidays that were not utilised because of workloads.”