BATU GAJAH, May 28 — The opportunity to hold a pen and notebook as a crime desk reporter left a big impact on famous cartoonist ‘Datuk Lat’, or Datuk Mohd Nor Khalid, who was announced as the recipient of the National Journalists’ Day Award (Hawana) 2023 today.
However, he said the so-called ‘power’ and advantage of carrying a media card was not a ticket for the father of four to abuse the facility, instead, he used it as a tool to make himself more courageous and responsible.
“How does the career of a journalist educate me? From being a shy person, not brave enough to ask questions, I was trained to become a confident person because I had to ask questions to senior police officers including the Inspector-General of Police, ministers and people from all walks of life which made me a confident and brave person.
“It also taught me to be a responsible human being with a high level of empathy because I learned what it was like to be in the shoes of affected souls due to the loss of loved ones in disasters such as accidents and fires,” he said when met by Bernama at Rumah Lat dan Galeri here, recently.
Recalling his journey as a media practitioner, Lat said before becoming a professional cartoonist, he started his career as a reporter at the Berita Harian newspaper in 1970 before working as a crime desk reporter at the New Straits Times (NST) newspaper in 1973.
Lat, 72, born in Kampung Lalang, Gopeng, Perak, shared that the career of a journalist was a challenge because one had to face dangers including risking his or her life for the sake of the job, as well as having to ensure that the information being channelled was verified and of good quality in order to unite and educate the people.
“I still remember that if there is an issue that we are assigned to, we have to make sure that every angle and aspect needs to be covered involving all parties, instead of presenting one-sided views only. All parties need to be given fair space to provide their side of the story,” he said.
Asked about the sweetest experience during his time as a journalist, Lat said the most memorable was meeting the country’s greatest artiste extraordinaire, the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee, at his residence.
Lat added that after leaving the world of journalism and focusing on his career as a cartoonist, the media and newspapers were the main platforms to convey messages to the multiracial community through his comic sketches.
“If there was no newspaper, I wouldn’t be anywhere or anyone (today), the media played a very important role in helping me achieve success in the field of comic drawing. If a reader laughs at my cartoon in the newspaper for three seconds, I’m satisfied,” he said.
The recipient of the 2023 Hawana award started drawing cartoons at the age of 13 with his first work being the Tiga Sekawan series.
In 1968, when he was 16 years old, his comic series Keluarga Si Mamat was accepted by Tan Sri A. Samad Ismail (then Editor of Berita Harian) to be published in Berita Minggu newspaper every week and continued for 26 years.
Cartoonist Datuk Mohd Nor Khalid, also known as Datuk Lat, poses with copies of his comics during a Bernama interview at Rumah Lat dan Galeri, Batu Gajah May 28, 2023. — Bernama pic
The humorous work portraying the simple kampung life of Muslim Malays was so well-received that the editor-in-chief of NST at the time, Lee Siew Yee and A. Samad offered Lat the position of a permanent cartoonist in the newspaper where he was entrusted to record Malaysian culture in the cartoon series, Scenes of Malaysian Life.
His other works include Lots of Lat; Lats Lot; Kampung Boy; Mat Som and Dr Who?.
Throughout his career, Lat has received numerous awards including the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 2002 which recognises the work of individuals and organisations involved in preserving culture and the arts.
The Hawana Award is given to acknowledge the services, contributions and excellence of individuals or institutions that have empowered and developed the media industry and journalism profession in this country.
Lat’s selection was made based on his contribution to conveying information and educating the community on various issues through caricatures that were done with humour and prudence with a dash of sarcasm. He received RM10,000 in cash, a trophy and a certificate of appreciation. — Bernama