THE Peranakan Chinese community was among the pioneers of Malay journalism during the British colonial period in Malaya.
Universiti Sains Malaysia Vice-Chancellor Prof Datuk Dzulkifli Abdul Razak said the community pioneered several newspapers in Romanised Malay script and had encouraged Peranakan readers to learn the Malay language.
“Just as in Jawa and Sumatera, the Peranakan Chinese in Malaya pioneered newspapers in Ro- manised Malay starting with Surat Khabar Peranakan in 1891,” he said at the launch of a seminar on Key Figures in Malaysian Journalism in the 20th Century at USM on Friday.
Other publications by the community were Bintang Timor (1894), Kabar Slalu (1924), Kabar Ucapan Baru (1926) and Bintang Peranakan (1930), he said.
However, the earliest Malay publication in the Jawi script was the Malay-English bilingual magazine called Bustan Ariffin or Malay Magazine published by Christian missionaries in Malacca in 1821, he said.
In the Chinese Peranakan newspapers, Dzulkifli noted some interesting articles that concerned the community's attitude towards the Malay language.
He quoted an April 1894 article in Bintang Timor that urged the community to learn Malay “supaya apabila orang Melayu ber-bahasa Melayu yang halus, kita jangan tinggal bingung, akan tetapi supaya kita bulih, mengerti dan menjawab dalam bahasa Melayu yang halus juga...” (so that when-ever the Malays converse in ex-quisite Malay, we are not baffled, but are able to understand and reply in exquisite Malay too).
Dzulkifli said the Jawi Perana-kan and Arab-Malays played an equally important role in setting up a foundation for early Malay journalism that was later explored by Malays in the 20th century.
He said the Jawi Peranakan newspaper (1876-1895) was founded by Muhammad Said Dada Muhyiddin who was of Jawi Peranakan descent.
The founders of other newspapers such as Sekola Melayu, Seri Perak, Tanjong Penagri, Pemimpin Wanita and Jajahan Melayu were also of mixed descent, added Dzulkifli.
He said the participation of Malays in journalism became more prominent after the publication of the magazine Al-Imam in 1906.
The seminar, jointly organised by USM's School of Humanities (History section) and Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, was launched by Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas and was chaired by Assoc Prof Abdul Rahman Ismail.