From the beancounter to word counter, Zakhir the affable gentle giant to those who knew him.

“Lest we forget” is often read out at remembrance services and commemorative events. Previously used in wars and to honour those killed in the line of duty, it was even used by Rudyard Kipling in his poetic works back in the day!

Through the years it has, rightly so, also used to refer to those who have contributed in their respective disciplines and specialised fields.

Over the past week, the media fraternity came to terms with the demise of the industry’s renowned duo – Tony Francis and Zakhir Mohamed.

On Dec. 27 weekend, the 53-year-old Petra News director popularly known among bloggers as Big Dog breathed his last.

Formerly the Chief Executive Officer of The Mole, he was a prominent blogger and political observer despite being an accountant by training.

Journalist Ahirul Ahiruddin reported that Zakhir, who started blogging more than 10 years ago, was one of the pioneers in the local political blogosphere along with Datuk A. Kadir Jasin, Elizabeth Wong and Jeff Ooi.

Zakhir’s best friend and fellow blogger Salahuddin Hisham described news of his death as shocking.

“He has a good memory and a rationalist. Very facts and figures person. He has a lot of humour. He’s also a very serious person on what he believes, and very concerned about ethics. He’s a bit traditionalist and conservative and he’s definitely the righteous type.

“In fact, I usually pass the burden of remembering things to him. That’s how good his memories were.

“It was only moments before that we got in touch and as usual, he was being witty with his responses.

“For me, this is a great loss. So great, that I’m considering to call it quits in my journey as a social activist. We spent more than 20 years in this journey together and I enjoyed my partnership with him. We have very high respect for each other,” Salahuddin was quoted in The Mole.

National Press Club of Malaysia president Datuk Ahirudin Attan also described Zakhir’s passing as shocking and said that he has lost a dear friend above all.
“He was a good friend, a prominent blogger and I lost both of that when he passed on,” he said.

The current CEO of The Mole Datuk Nuraina Samad said she had hoped that Zakhir would quickly recover when she first heard that he had collapsed, and was shocked when later told of his passing.

“Verily we belong to Allah, and verily to Him do we return. My friend, my little brother Zakhir has passed on. May he be in peace and serenity there.

“Oh Zakhir, I was hoping you were pulling a fast one… or that it was one of those.” she wrote through her Instagram account posting.

Zakhir, survived by wife and daughter, was buried at the Bukit Kiara Muslim cemetery on Sunday.

Francis always had a keen sense for news and clad with consummate passion for the profession.

Last week, veteran sportswriter Tony Francis returned to his creator, but not before he signed off with his true wit and charm.

“You set the pace and I huffed and puffed to get to the finishing line and it was an epic and unforgettable journey and one I will cherish.”

That was the last message Francis emailed his eldest brother Jeffrey in Australia.
Another brother and fellow journalist, Jerry said the message was typical of Tony’s personality as he expressed his appreciation and gratitude to members of his family.
“Tony was a cheerful person and very down to earth, he never showed that he was suffering and always made jokes with us until his final days,”  he told Nur Amirah Abdul Rani recently.

Francis was a journalist at New Straits Times from 1967 until his retirement as chief news editor in 2002.

His spouse, Chan Cheng Tuan, said Tony’s condition was good until it started to deteriorate last week.
“Until recently it became worse. Up till then, he had still been following his sports.
Francis was known among his fellow journalists as a dedicated and talented media practitioner, especially for his sports reporting.

Ahirudin described Francis as an excellent journalist and a dear friend whose enthusiasm for journalism was exemplary.
He said Francis’s contribution to journalism will be remembered as a milestone for the profession.
“Malaysian journalism owes (Tony) Francis a debt of gratitude,” he added.
He also expressed appreciation to the Yang DiPertuan Agung, for taking the time to pay tribute to Tony as a journalist upon learning about his death.

Former national badminton player, Datuk James Selvaraj, 70 remembers Francis fondly as a schoolmate and good friend.
Selvaraj said they became especially close after meeting at badminton championships.
“I remember he wrote a biography about me and it turned out it had a huge impact on my badminton career.
“He knew my background. The biography motivates me to be better and I won three championships in three respective years after that,” he was quoted in The Mole.

Former hockey great Datuk R. Yogeswaran said he has been close with Tony for 50 years ever since the latter covered the East Regional Hockey tournament in Jakarta.
“He was an amiable man, and a friend more than anything else. He has in-depth knowledge of the sport that no one has, and the sports industry will definitely miss him,” he told The Mole.

Coincidentally, last week also saw outgoing United States President Donald Trump ink legislation which will create a memorial in Washington DC in honour of fallen journalists.

The Fallen Journalists Memorial Act allows the creation of a privately-funded memorial to honour journalists, photographers and broadcasters killed in the line of duty.

Bernama photojournalist Noramfaizul Mohd Nor was fatally shot while on a dangerous assignment in Mogadishu, Somalia in 2011.

The Washington DC-based Newseum then honoured Noramfaizul, following the recommendation from the NPC, on its Journalists Memorial Wall which pays tribute to reporters, photographers and broadcasters who died reporting the news.

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