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National Hawana 2024 Award for veteran journalist James Ritchie

James Ritchie receiving his awards.

Senior Malay Mail journalist Sulok Tawie  receiving his appreciation awards.

KUCHING: Veteran journalist James Alexander Ritchie, better known as James Ritchie, was awarded the National Journalists’ Day (Hawana) 2024 Award at the highlight event of the celebration held here on Monday (May 27).

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim presented the award to James, 74, who has dedicated over five decades to journalism since 1971.

Starting as a cadet journalist at the Straits Times in the federal capital at the age of 23, James slowly climbed the career ladder in the journalism industry, particularly in Sarawak.

Among the positions he has held are New Straits Times senior journalist in 1981, Public Relations Officer at the Sarawak Chief Minister’s Department (1998), and Media Consultant for Sarawak Digest (2022).

Other positions include special writer at Sarawak Tribune in 2022, Editorial Advisor and Executive Director at Eastern Times (2006), and Executive Director at New Sarawak Tribune (2010).

His significant contributions to writing and journalism have earned him much recognition, including the Shell Kenyalang Gold Award, AZAM Press Award, and Ang Lai Soon Gold Award.

Reflecting on his career and offering advice to aspiring journalists, he said: “I will still be there, still around, giving competition to the youngsters.

“Never give up, always keep an eye on the competition. Believe in yourself, believe you’re the best,” he said.

“A compelling story is one that makes people marvel at the capabilities of someone who may not have had a formal education but can still rise to prominence, like a man without arms who can fish and swim. These are the stories that stand out.

“Some people have physical limitations but possess extraordinary mental strength, as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar rightly pointed out – it’s about the body, soul, mind, and wisdom. Use your wisdom to shape your narrative, to discern what’s right and wrong.”

The Prime Minister also presented another Hawana 2024 Award to the Kuching Division Journalists Association (KDJA), which was received by its president, Ronnie Teo, as a token of appreciation for the association.

The Hawana Awards aims to recognise and honour professional journalists, individuals, or organisations that have made significant contributions not only in journalism but also in shaping the minds of the public through their works.

The inaugural Hawana Award was posthumously awarded to the Father of Independence and Father of Malaysia, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj in 2018, who was Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, followed by the Karangkraf Group (2022) and Datuk Lat, whose real name is Datuk Mohd Nor Khalid (2023).

At the ceremony, Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg also presented the Sarawak Premier’s Appreciation Awards in conjunction with HAWANA 2024 to seven recipients, including Star Media Group photographer Zulazhar Sheblee, former RTM Sarawak Chief Reporter Alice Wee Siok Lian, New Sarawak Tribune Associate Editor M. Rajah, and Malay Mail Senior Journalist Sulok Tawie.

Speaking after receiving the award, Sulok said, “To be appreciated over what you have done as a reporter in the past is beyond description.”

“What more when the appreciation comes from Ukas of the premier of Sarawak’s office. I have received journalism awards in the past, but this one beats them all.”

The other recipients were former Utusan Sarawak Executive Editor Willian Cornelius Chan Khun Neng, former Chinese Daily News General Manager Johnny Loh Kee Kong and Utusan Sarawak Executive Editorial Advisor Kadir Dikoh.

The three-day Hawana 2024 celebration themed “Etika Teras Kewartawanan Mapan”, which began on Saturday, is being attended by approximately 1,000 guests comprising local and international media practitioners.

Representatives from associations, local journalists’ clubs, and journalists from 12 countries namely Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Timor Leste, China, South Korea, Qatar, France, and Kuwait, have gathered in this city since Saturday, witnessing various programmes arranged to celebrate this first-ever Hawana event in the Land of the Hornbills.

May 29 has been gazetted as National Journalists’ Day in conjunction with the publication of the first edition of Utusan Melayu on May 29, 1939, aimed at celebrating the contributions of media practitioners.

This gathering of journalists is organised by the Communications Ministry in collaboration with the Sarawak state government. The Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) is the implementing agency.

MEANWHILE, Chia Kan Nyuk, 53, a journalist with See Hua Daily News who has served for 31 years and has been battling breast cancer since July 2023, was the recipient of the Tabung Kasih@Hawana fund in Sarawak.

The fund aims to support veteran journalists and media practitioners facing health issues and financial difficulties.

Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil highlighted the significance of the Tabung Kasih@Hawana initiative, introduced by Bernama.

“So far, we have reached and assisted 102 individuals through this fund. We will continue this effort to ensure the welfare of media practitioners is protected,” he said.

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