Memorable wedding bringing together relatives and old friends

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 9:15 AM Posted by AZNAN

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A wedding is one occasion for any hosts who have gone through in making preparations for the event would want it to be a memorable one to treasure throughout life. Having close friends and relatives to grace the occasion is something the hosts look forward to happen to share the happy moments together. Not only for parents, but most importantly for the bride and the bridegroom. 

The wedding ceremony of my youngest son, Amir Azfar with Diana Nuzuin which I hosted at Bangi Golf Resort on Sunday, 26 January 2014, went on pretty smooth with a good turn up of close friends and relatives. As hosts, my wife and I were very happy and delighted to welcome our guests to the reception.

Indeed, as I reflected in my speech at the wedding, the occasion was a gathering which provided a good opportunity for many to meet old friends from their younger days, during school years or during their studies at the universities. Or for some, during those days they had been working together in similar places or organisations either in the country or overseas.

Some friends frankly told me they have not met each other for a long period of time since the last time they saw each other. This has indeed been a nostalgic occasion, not only for the guests but also for me and my wife as many of those who came happened to be common or mutual friends to most. So, many of them took time to talk and reflect of the good old days they were together.

There were relatives and families as well as family friends from both sides (my wife and I) from near and far who took their time to attend the wedding. Some were from Perak, Kelantan, Pahang, Melaka and Johor.

Among close friends were those from my school days in Taiping and university days in Shah Alam and Kuala Lumpur. There were former colleagues from Wisma Putra days, right to the Information Ministry and the Department of Information days and some old friends who served with Bernama and other media organisations.

We were honoured with the presence of former boss, Tan Sri Hasmy Agam and Puan Sri Mudhlifah. I had served under Tan Sri at Malaysia's diplomatic mission in Paris.

There were friends who we happened to meet while serving overseas or working together in the same capital cities like Bangkok, Tokyo, Paris and London. These were indeed real colleagues and close friends whom I have had the opportunity to serve together for almost 32 years.

There were also several colleagues from IIUM, the place I currently work or had been serving for six years. Former university rector, Prof. Dato' Seri Dr. Syed Arabi Idid and his wife, together with Prof. Dr. Mohd Yusof Hussain and wife were present.

Other guests were friends from other departments, organisations and universities whom I have been associated with in the past and presently in my long years of service.

My wife, Suraya, was happy to see old friends from MARDI where she started working upon graduating from UiTM, and classmates from both university days and school days at Sekolah Tun Fatimah (STF), Johor Bahru, a boarding school for girls.

One good thing about the event, it also brought neighbours together which helped enhance closer relationship. Getting to know neighbours and bringing about closer ties is so important.

Not forgetting the young and dynamic people, some of them are my present and former students of IIUM and UiTM whom I have had the opportunity to meet with in the past. Some are friends and classmates of both Amir Azfar and Diana Nuzuin (Awin) from UiTM and UNISEL and other universities and the private sector organisations who have given us a lot of support and assistance to help make the occasion a memorable one.

I felt greatly honoured with their presence to share the happy moments together. Our prayers and doa' for a happy marriage and a successful future for the newly weds. May they be blessed by Allah SWT at all times.

What it takes to be a good journalist

Friday, July 4, 2014 9:07 PM Posted by AZNAN

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What does it take to be a good journalist?  Or simply what are the main characteristics a good journalist should possess? 

A known figure in journalism, Datuk Ibrahim Yahaya who is currently the Chief Executive Officer of BERNAMA TV, frankly shared his knowledge and experience with graduating students at a Practicum session held recently (2 April 2014) at IIUM campus in Gombak. 

Good knowledge, communication skills, paying attention to details, accuracy, credibility, exposure and field experience are some of the criteria and qualification sought after by media establishments, according to Datuk Ibrahim Yahaya. 

A journalist must also have an inquisitive mind and should always be alert and sensitive to latest development on current affairs that impact on society. They must know what constitutes news and how to present news to create interest to their readers and audiences. Another criteria like having proficiency in language and being bilingual in both English and Malay would be an added advantage.

Datuk Ibrahim Yahaya have had a wealth of experience in journalism and had worked extensively in the field with Berita Harian, TV3, Berita Publishing and RTM which sprang a period of over 30 years. He was also the Director-General of RTM for two years from 2009 to 2011. He is also a known blogger.

He stressed the importance for journalists to do their homework before going on their assignments so that they would not be unnecessarily caught in a situation of not knowing the subject discussed at the press conference and therefore would appear too ignorant, embarrassed or even stupid. They must therefore have a passion to build on their knowledge so as to enable them to do a good reporting as well.  

A journalist, he said, must also commit himself or herself to certain work ethics and journalistic principles and should not write false reports. The importance of maintaining credibility must be observed and practised at all times. 

Journalists working in the traditional media organisations are now facing competition from social media in terms of contents and speed at which news are disseminated by the new media. He mentioned that audience are now exposed to four screens daily from mobile phone to tablet, computer and television. Technology has overtaken everything in their professional job. Journalists have no other choice but to learn to use the new technology and should have good knowledge on how technology works in broadcasting and journalism. They must expose themselves to technology and learn how to benefit from it in terms of reporting and communicating.

Datuk Ibrahim also pointed out that communication graduates are also facing competition from non-communication graduates for jobs. This is true as in some respects media organisations would prefer employing graduates in other fields like economic, law, business studies or even natural sciences because they have the advantage of the knowledge in their respective fields which the media are looking for. It is for this reason that communication graduates would have to prove themselves with extra skills and knowledge to convince future employers that they are equally good for the jobs.  

Students aspiring to go into journalism when they graduate from the university should by now already braced themselves of the criteria to be real good journalists or broadcasters. They have been advised to learn fast from the experience of other professionals who are in the field and put them into practice. 

Many would have a chance to prove themselves when they go for their internship with the media during the short semester in June. 


Education funding

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 10:40 AM Posted by AZNAN

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There is so much talk and promises by the opposition about doing away with PTPTN and providing free education to all. Dr. Mahathir Mohamad wrote that no other government like our present government spends so much allocation on education.  In fact, the government spends almost 25 percent of the annual budget on education. Besides, there has been a lot of other subsidies provided by the government.

That's why the government has set up PTPTN as a rolling fund that will continue to provide opportunities for all those qualified to pursue their higher education. The government somehow has to pick up the  bill. Otherwise, if education is provided free for all, it would mean indirectly even the poor has to bear the cost for the rich.

Perhaps there is the need for PTPTN or the Ministry of Higher Education to devise a formula whereby the students do not have to take 100 per cent loan. A certain percentage could be given in the form of scholarship particularly for those who really deserve to be given the award. The full criteria would have to be worked out to the deserving ones. In all fairness and in equality, the award portion may not necessarily be based entirely on merits. There could be other considerations like the income of their parents and family backgrounds.

On the other hand, those who are entitled to receive full scholarship (100 per cent) based on their scholastic performance and merits, may not be given the full amount. The government should perhaps make them pay a certain portion so that they feel the need  to shoulder a certain responsibility apart from the government paying for the education.

In this case, I think, there would be greater equality in the disbursement of the fund, and the people would be happy.

Public Relations is about credibility!

Friday, May 25, 2012 11:59 PM Posted by AZNAN

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In July last year I wrote in my facebook an article "New boost for government PR" in my attempt to draw attention to the importance of giving a boost to government public relations machinery. I don't really know how many people have read my note but my message was quite clear. That public relations has a role in managing the image of the government and in promoting government policies.

With the 13th general elections just around the corner the role of the government public relations machinery becomes more prominent as the public needs to be convinced of policies and programmes that would bring about continued development and progress for the country and the people.

Certainly there's the need to bring in new strategies to win the hearts and minds of the people, particularly among young people, towards what have been done by the present government. They need to be reminded what the government had achieved and what they have  benefited, and what would they stand to benefit in the next years to come, especially with regard to transformational programmes currently embarked by the government.

Despite efforts been carried out to promote the image of the government and to maintain good relationship with the public, many people still have not understood the real meaning of public relations. Critics are saying that public relations is an act of lies and manipulation or an attempt to spin. Public relations people are often called "spin doctors".

But I would say that practitioners too are partly to be blamed if they allow themselves to be misunderstood or misjudged by the public or to indulge in a situation where they appear ignorant of certain developments and policies.

Public relations is about managing image and perception. It is about ethical practice, credibility, openness and transparency. It is about giving the right perspective, taking into considerations the public opinion and feedback from the audience. It concerns building trust and confidence. This could only come about through constant monitoring of the environment and by being sensitive to public response in ensuring survival of organizations, in this case the government agencies. It involves engaging the public.

It would mean that public relations people in government agencies have to work extra hard to prove their worth and to put the present government in positive light. There's so much the government have done over the past years and these are track records for people to see and to judge for themselves. The facts and details must be made available for the public to see. Public relations people must be able to rationalize and not to spin the facts when they are approached by the public. They should not just paint the positive picture but must attempt to be balanced so that the public would be able to judge for themselves the progress that have been brought about by the government.

There is the need to do an audience study. The present audiences, particularly the younger generation, may not understand fully the history of the country and may not recognize their identity. Where we are today does not come out of the blues from some where but rather as a result of hard work of the past generation of leaders. There is a lot of education process that the public must be engaged and issues misunderstood to be addressed.

Apart from that the messages to the different target groups need to be well crafted and well thought out.  Public relations practitioners now have to address the audience who are more affluent and educated who are aware of their rights. The government public relations machinery therefore cannot operate on the basis of approaches or strategies carried out in the past which is already obsolete. Instead, they need to embrace the new technology, use more of the new media, and the officers or the practitioners too must embark on more aggressive strategies to penetrate audience who are equally aggressive and demanding. The media too ought to be balanced in their reporting and assessment.

There are now far bigger challenges for the government public relations to deal with the current issues which are being manipulated by so many elements which are opposed to what the government is doing.

Public attitudes and behaviors towards government public relations must be changed. The public should be made to understand that they should not think whatever that comes from government officials are of propaganda nature or simply mouthpiece of the government. Instead, the people must be convinced that these are real efforts to explain the benefits the public would gain following implementation of social and economic transformation policies to bring about progress and development. The rest would be left to the people to decide.

Public relations efforts therefore must be interpreted and implemented wisely with credibility in mind.

Politics took centre stage in Bersih 3.0 rally

Sunday, May 6, 2012 11:14 PM Posted by AZNAN

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Reading Johan Jaaffar's article in New Straits Times (Saturday, 5 May 2012) somewhat confirmed my belief that the Bersih rally which was intended as a peaceful assembly seeking for a clean and fair election had been hijacked by politicians. Politics took the centre stage, he argued.

Johan said Ambiga should have known the crowd has no face until you paste that of Anwar Ibrahim. "Ambiga must be driven by some ideals but she was just another person among the thousands."

Prime Minister Najib also said on Friday that there were two groups which participated in the rally: one the participants of peaceful assembly; and the other who wanted to turn the whole thing into a political gathering. The group, Najib said, had the intention of taking over Dataran Merdeka and turning it into Tahrir Square in Egypt. It was an attempt to topple the government, he added.

One thing for sure the rally had tarnished the image of our country abroad. It somewhat showed we are still very far from a civil society and a matured democracy.

Johan's analysis is enough to sum up the current state of mentality or mindset of our people.

He said: "Watching some one stomping on a car like a madman possessed is not our idea of helping to reform the electoral process. Witnessing our young becoming thugs is not pleasant. Mob psychology is always an unpleasant thing to talk about and it leaves a bitter aftertaste about the maturity of our people. Perhaps it is true as some people have argued that we are a long way from a civil society. Further still from positing a mature democracy."

Of shallow likes and links

12:51 AM Posted by AZNAN

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An editorial comment titled "Of shallow likes and links" in New Sunday Times (22 April 2012) is somewhat interesting as it raised concerns that the internet generation is indulging in too much inanity. Inanity simply refers to something stupid, silly, or meaningless.

It says "Going by what appears to be popular on online social networking sites and the pattern of inane Internet sensations, it is almost tempting to give in to the idea that society is rapidly becoming mindless."

What the editorial is trying to highlight is that it appears the younger generation is now focusing more on the mundane things and gossips rather than the more serious subjects. Comments on Facebook or Twitter, the editorial says, do not have to be intelligent to garner massive amounts of likes. The simpler the comment the more response it is likely to get.

Deep soul-searching debate on the state of environment, nation, or even education, does not draw big crowds. It asks questions like "Should stories be simplified and presented in bite-sized form to cater to shrinking attention span?"Or should the elders in society resign themselves to just saying, " This is what the internet generation is interested in?"

I agree that there's the need for society to strive to inculcate a culture that values intelligent thought and scholarship particularly among the younger generation, otherwise they will not have the depth to indulge in intelligent debate. That will be a waste, isn't it? They need to be taught to think critically from young! And the Internet should be fully and intelligently used for this purpose!

Kickstart to Public Relations of Tomorrow

12:37 AM Posted by AZNAN

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How would you brace yourselves to ensure that you would be readily employed by the industry upon graduating from the university? Communication and human sciences students of International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) were recently reminded that they must develop their potentials during their university days as the employers would prefer to hire graduates with "extra or plus qualities".

The reminder came from two senior communication executives, Mr. Izad Haji Raya of Proton Holdings Berhad and Mr. Nik Effendi Jaafar of Employees Provident Fund in a forum session on April 12, organized by the public relations practicum students of the university.

The practicum event was indeed a window to the internship program, prior to their attachment with the industry, aimed at giving the opportunity for the public relations students to demonstrate their professional skills and to gain practical knowledge.  It was also intended to expose them to current knowledge of the industry through interactive sessions with practitioners from the field.

Students were told that employers would rather go for "the street smart" than the "book smart" per se.  "You might have scored a CGPA of 3.5 or 3.6 but if you cannot prove that you have the "extra or the plus factors" that employers are looking for, you do not stand a good chance to be employed", the speakers said.

As the industry is becoming more competitive, the employers no doubt tend to be choosy and want to hire the best graduates not only in terms of academic performance but also in terms of their ability and skills, and their personality to deliver their work efficiently.  With the increase in the number of graduates entering the job market each year, employers cannot just settle for the mediocre, instead they are determined to look for the good candidates who have the potential to perform well in the market. That was the message driven by the speakers at the forum.

Some 120 students who attended the session listened attentively to the speakers when they were enlightened on the expectations of the industry. The speakers cited examples of the interview process which they conducted where they found students with good CGPA, who logically should not have problems to be hired, but failed to convince the interview panel. They seemed to be lacking in communication and thinking skills and were not able to articulate their minds as to their ability to examine issues or to solve problems.

Students were also told they should not be satisfied to learn just about communication techniques and theories. Instead, they should be well disposed to the content aspects when handling public relations in an organization.

Public relations practitioners need to know the issues that are developing within the organization. Therefore, they must have a good working knowledge about the organization especially in terms of its core business, its involvement with strategic publics and the stakeholders, and where the overall interest of the organization lie, which means they must have a strong background on relevant matters or subjects that influence the survival of the organization.

This also means they must show interest in current affairs and must be prepared to work hard to conduct their own study and research about topics related or of interest to the organization.

Apart from the two senior speakers from the industry, students also had the opportunity to learn from their seniors during the sharing moment session held in the afternoon. Ahmad Nazreen Shah from Petronas and Mohamad Rizzuan Abdul Razak from New Straits Times Press who have been in the industry for two years, had enlightened the students with a number of tips on what to expect upon graduation.

They highlighted the importance of having the right attitudes, the secret of managing bosses, the need for a conducive working environment, and to serve the organization with dedication. They also told the session about the challenges they had to go through in their first six months in their job. They mentioned the need to prove themselves of their ability to adapt and survive in the working environment which is far different from student days.

I thought the two sessions were very significant where the students were actively engaged in the discussion.

Another session by Puan Sherifah Muznizah Syed Mustafa from Carigalihess on interview skills, had also drawn considerable interest, where students were given an insight into some of the tips to enhance their appearance during job interviews which stressed on the significance of preparing resume, creating first impressions, and developing the right mindsets for the job. Puan Sharifah has vast working experience in human resources management having worked several years in multinational companies.

The practicum event was officiated by former rector Prof. Dato' Sri Dr. Syed Arabi Idid who later gave an inspiring speech to motivate the students. Prof. Syed has always showed great interest in public relations activities. The head of Communication Department, Dr. Che Mahzan Ahmad also attended the event and delivered a speech that stressed the importance of applying theories into public relations practice.