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Karam Singh Walia, the accidental hard-hitting journalist

13 Nov 2019 / 10:15 H.

AN accidental journalist. That was how former TV3 broadcast journalist Datuk Karam Singh Walia described his entry into the world of journalism.

The former secondary school teacher and university lecturer is probably the country’s best known broadcast journalist, besides being a household name through his hard hitting investigative reports.

And he counts among his biggest fans the prime minister’s wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali.

“In my style of broadcasting, I wanted to make the audience understand what I am trying to say about environmental issues. So, I used Malay proverbs or idioms.

“At that time, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah told me that she would stop all her kitchen chores the moment she heard my environmental segment in the news and listened to what I had to say. I was honoured when she told me that,” Karam told theSun in an interview recently.

Born into a Sikh Punjabi ex-policeman’s family in Teluk Intan, Perak in 1959, Karam was with TV3 from 1995 until 2014.

“My entry into the field of journalism, was not expected. There was a chronic dengue outbreak in my residential area that claimed the lives of several people. I reached out to the local council but no action was taken.

“I still remember when a council officer ridiculed and challenged me to do something about it. That was my call to arms. Of course my exit from the academic field came as a shock to my family, but my decision was to shake and shudder the wrong doers,” he said.

In one unforgettable incident in 2000, while exposing massive environmental degradation in Cameron Highlands, Karam was chased by several machete-wielding assailants in Brinchang and he had to seek refuge in the district police station.

“Numerous people tried to shut me up. I have endured personal losses and threats to my family’s safety. My house was broken into, ransacked and my car was stolen in 2009,” he said.

But through all this, Karam realised there were people who were behind him when he received a letter with RM50 in it.

“The sender said I might not recognise him but I had once stopped at his stall to drink coconut water while covering an assignment. He actually offered something from his earnings after knowing that my house was robbed. I was really touched. I don’t know where he got my address from but it reached my house,” he said.

Karam also broke down in tears when he recalled his reporting days as he admitted that he could not spend much time watching his three children grow up.

“This is one of my sad experiences. I couldn’t see my children growing up. Even dinner for me was at 2am. I am thankful that my wife and my kids understood my profession. Without their sacrifice, nothing would have materialised,” he said.

The four-time winner of the Malaysia Press Institute “Best Environmental Television Journalist” award in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 and two-time winner of the “Anugerah Seri Angkasa” also shared some words of wisdom for fellow journalists who are out building their careers.

“If you want to walk through the valley of death, then journalism is the field. Ask yourself why and what you actually want to do. I was once advised by veteran journalist R. Nadeswaran better known as Citizen Nades, to always check the facts and follow your heart. Back your facts or stories with expert opinion. Reading is the key and arm yourself with knowledge. The trick is that you must be able to tell a story in one minute. That’s narrative,” he said.

Karam signed off his interview with his unique style of Malay wit, saying:

“Kuat pohon kerana batangnya,

“Kuat batang kerana akarnya,

“Kuat akar kerana tanahnya,

“Kuat tanah kerana negaranya,

“Dan kuat negara selalu kerana Rakyatnya.”

Karam is now with the Malaysian Volunteer Corps Department (Rela) as an honorary assistant commissioner for the Sabah contingent. He resides with his family in Klang.

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