Thursday, July 16, 2009
From typewriter to computer ...
For the man who took Bernama from “typewriter-to-computer”, former general manager Ahmad Mustapha Hassan can take pride of Bernama’s transformation.
“Now Bernama is a real conglomerate, I wouldn’t know how to manage it,” he said at a talk to share his experience with past and present staff at Wisma Bernama today.
He took up the post in October 1981 when Bernama was operating from the MCOBA Building at what was then known as Jalan Lornie (now Jalan Syed Putra).
The operation was small but ‘noisy’, he said.
“The noise in the office was terrible, you can hear all sorts of noise…the teleprinters, typewriters…we had to change.
“We have to get computers to make it easier to disseminate news, easier to work,” he recalled.
Of course he had to face opposition, “some argued that it would affect pregnant staff”.
“It took me some time to convince them that it would not affect the baby,” he said.
But it was not until Bernama moved to the present Wisma Bernama in 1984 that the computerization plans were put into place.
Along with computerization, he saw opportunities for Bernama to generate its own money.
He was instrumental in getting the Bernama Act to be ammended in 1985 to enable the agency to venture into commercial activities.
“I wanted Bernama to be less dependent on the government,” he said and spoke about the partnership deals which Bernama clinched with some major news agencies and the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange.
He recalled the time when Bernama headed the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA) from 1981 to 1985.
It was the time when Unesco under the leadership of Amadou-Mahtar M'bow, a Senegalese, wanted to break the dominance of the “Big 4” in international news flow.
The Paris-based UN agency published the McBride Commission report in 1980 with the theme “Many Voices One World”. Among the problems the report identified were concentration of the media, commercialization of the media, and unequal access to information and communication.
News of the Third World reported by the major international news agencies were mostly about disasters and misfortune. The Third World were convinced that they and their interests were largely ignored and, when covered at all, subjected to ridicule, cynicism, and abuse.
Ahmad Mustapha said M’Bow was helpful to Bernama in the operation of OANA, which was set-up with Unesco's backing in 1961.
“The Unesco regional communication adviser S.M.Ali, a Bangladeshi, was based in KL…he too helped us a lot,” he said.
“We managed to get fund from Unesco to organize various workshops and seminars to help upgrade reporting in Asia Pacific," said Ahmad Mustapha, who ended his stint as GM on November 30, 1987.
For all that his done, it’s a wonder that he is still without a ‘Datukship’ to his name. When asked about this, the 73 year-old replied in jest:
“Well, I’m a datuk with eight grandchildren.”
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