KUALA LUMPUR: Friends and colleagues from the media paid tribute to veteran journalist Johan Fernandez Abdullah, 71, who died here after an illness.
Johan was in the media industry for almost 50 years and had worked for The Star, New Straits Times, Malay Mail and The Sun.
Star Media Group’s chief content officer Esther Ng, who was a news reporter when she first met Johan who was with the StarMetro Desk, said he was a friendly and caring colleague.
“I used to work late almost daily and he would always come over and say ‘hi’ or to see if I was OK. He was a sweet guy, ” she said.
StarMetro deputy editor Esther Chandran, who worked under Johan’s supervision for over four years, described him as someone who was ever ready to lend an ear and offer wise counsel.
“We were close friends and he was like a father to me. I will miss him a lot, ” she said.
A close relative said Johan was admitted to Hospital Kuala Lumpur on Monday for an acute health ailment and breathed his last at about 6am yesterday. He was buried at the Jalan Ampang Muslim cemetery.
He leaves behind his wife Hanim Melan, daughters Jasmin, 43, Julia, 39, Juanita, 34, and son Haikal, 32, and seven grandchildren.
Among those who paid their last respects were the Prime Minister’s media and communications adviser Datuk A. Kadir Jasin and Bernama chairman Datuk Seri Azman Ujang.
Hanim said she met Johan when both of them were reporters with the NST in 1971. They got married three years later.
“Johan always loved sports. He loved watching tennis and cricket, ” she said.
His eldest daughter Jasmin said her father was a good listener.
“He was always there for us with his presence, and ever willing to help others.
“I will remember him as a kind soul and kindred spirit. My children will miss their ‘atuk’ (grandfather) very much, ” she said.
His brother Patrick Fernandez, 75, said Johan was a simple and quiet man.
“There are 11 of us siblings. Johan was number six, ” he said.
Johan made his name as a top crime reporter with NST in the 1970s and 1980s before joining The Star in 1989 as Metro deputy
editor. He was appointed editor in 1994.
In 2001, he was The Star’s editor for the North American bureau in New York and served there until 2006.
Upon his return, he worked with The Star’s Newsdesk as deputy editor (Op-Ed) until June 2016.
Subsequently, he joined Malay Mail as a sub-editor until 2018.
In May this year, Johan was featured in
The Star’s R.AGE documentary series on the 1969 May 13 riots, sharing his experience during the incident.