Malaysia: End of Media Freedom?

January 24, 2016

Malaysia: End of Media Freedom–Najib Razak on the Defensive

by Malaysiakini Reporters

Letter from MCMC to Din Merican


2016-01-20 9:00 GMT+08:00 MCMC New Media Unit <>:

Ruj. Kami     : SKMM(T)09-NMSMD/960/2016 (14)

Tarikh          : 20 Januari 2016

En. Din Merican (



 Dengan segala hormatnya perkara di atas adalah dirujuk.

2.Adalah dimaklumkan bahawa Suruhanjaya Komunikasi dan Multimedia Malaysia (MCMC) mendapati bahawa pihak tuan telah menerbitkan sebuah artikel yang mempunyai maklumat yang tidak benar di bawah tajuk “Malaysia: Prime Minister Najib Razak on the way out?” melalui pautan berikut:

3.Untuk makluman tuan, pihak Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia (SPRM) telah mengeluarkan satu kenyataan rasmi pada 18 Januari 2016 yang menjelaskan bahawa laporan portal berita Sarawak Report yang mengatakan kononnya terdapat 37 syor dakwaan berasingan telah dikemukakan oleh SPRM terhadap YAB Perdana Menteri Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak melibatkan kes SRC International, adalah tidak benar.

4. Oleh yang demikian, pihak MCMC dengan ini menyarankan pihak tuan untuk menurunkan dan menghentikan penyebaran kandungan berita palsu tersebut bagi mengelakkan daripada melakukan kesalahan di bawah Akta Komunikasi dan Multimedia 1998 (AKM98).

Sekian, untuk tindakan segera pihak tuan. Terima kasih.

Yang Benar,
Jabatan Rangkaian Media dan Pengurusan Keselamatan
Bahagian Pengawasan Digital
Suruhanjaya Komunikasi dan Multimedia Malaysia (MCMC)
Off Persiaran Multimedia
63000 Cyberjaya
Selangor Darul Ehsan
Tel  : +60 3 8688 8000
Fax : +60 3 8688 1000

  Che IconThe Iconic Che’

ANALYSIS: With Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak strengthening his position in the wake of the ‘donation’ scandal and launches a counter-attack against his critics, the media industry has become one of the first casualties.

This, coupled with a sluggish economy, resulting in a fall of advertising income, has impacted, in particular, a number of fledging online news websites.

A week ago, rumours began spreading within the journalists’ circle that the ownership of certain media organisations may change hands, a few will close shop, while some are altering their market position.

Among those affected is news website The Rakyat Post (TRP). Its investor is believed to have withdrawn funding and the portal could face closure, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The trilingual portal, which was set up after the 13th general election, provides tabloid-style news. It is believed that its former patron is a businessman who has an affinity to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Sources told Malaysiakini that TRP was facing a “cashflow issue”, resulting in late payment of salaries, and journalists were encouraged by the management to seek employment elsewhere.

Malaysiakini has contacted TRP for confirmation but has yet to receive an official response.Meanwhile, Astro Awani, a popular television channel that has successfully built a large Malay audience, will soon morph into an English-only outfit.

The MCMC is also after Bloggers

According to a source, it seeks to reposition itself as a regional news agency and will no longer focus solely on local current affairs. It is understood that Astro Awani will abandon its sizeable Malay-speaking market and is to broadcast entirely in English by April 1. A number of employees are expected to be laid off while some Malay-speaking reporters may opt to resign, according to sources.

The 24-hour Bahasa Malaysia news station was launched in 2007 in conjunction with the 50th Merdeka celebration. Two years later, it expanded its stable to include English programmes.

Astro Awani also operates a BM and English website, providing news not just in video but also in text. It is unclear if the website would be affected by the transformation.Observers believe that the language switch could help the government curb Astro Awani’s influence among Malay viewers.

Viewers of Malay language news and current affairs programmes will be left with RTM, Media Prima’s TV3 and TV9, and Astro’s TV Al Hjirah, which has an Islamic focus.

When contacted, Astro Awani Chief Executive Officer Faizal Mansor had this to say: “Astro Awani, Malaysia’s first and only 24/7 news channel, has built a strong franchise in BM and is looking forward to building on it to better serve our customers.”

Malaysian Insider put on the market

Another shocker is news on financial weekly The Edge, which is reportedly planning to sell The Malaysian Insider (TMI), allegedly as part of a deal with the powers-that-be to resolve the issue of its publication permit suspension.

Former New Straits Times Group Editor-in-Chief A Kadir Jasin has claimed in a blog posting that the potential buyer is someone from Najib’s camp.

The Edge was suspended for three months last year after publishing a four-page expose claiming that flamboyant tycoon Jho Low and PetroSaudi International had siphoned RM1.83 billion from 1MDB through the 1MDB-PetroSaudi joint venture company.

The Edge resumed publication in September after the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed the home minister’s suspension order.

The financial weekly, owned by tycoon Tong Kooi Ong, has recently conducted an exclusive interview with 1MDB chief Arul Kanda, which raised some eyebrows.

Ahirudin Attan aka Rocky Bru, a veteran newsman from the pro-Najib camp, said in his blog: “Does that mean Arul has won them over? It seems that way to me. The whole report on Arul and 1MDB was glowing, if you ask me.”

Tong bought TMI in 2014 from a group of unnamed investors. The news portal was launched in February 2008, just before the 12th general election, and is believed to have changed hands a number of times.

Steven Gan

Steven Gan and Malaysiakini Team

Malaysiakini has contacted The Edge and TMI, but both did not respond to questions on the matter.It is also learnt that a number of media organisations have received warnings from the Prime Minister’s Office in recent weeks not to play up issues that could cast a negative light on the government, such as the 1MDB scandal.

However, Malay daily Sinar Harian denied this in an email message to Malaysiakini, while another bilingual news portal has declined to answer queries on the matter.Sinar Harian is the only Malay daily that has no direct link to UMNO. Its sales have increased in recent years as its editorial stand is seen to be relatively more independent compared to its rivals.

The empire strikes back

Ever since Najib was implicated in the RM2.6 billion ‘donation’ scandal last year, he has mounted a series of attacks – using both restrictive laws and the state machinery – against the Fourth Estate.

Asia Sentinel is the latest casualty in Najib’s war against pestering websites. On Thursday, the Hong Kong-based current affairs news site was blocked by Putrajaya after it reproduced an article by Sarawak Report, where the latter claimed to be in possession of evidence against Najib in relation to the SRC International case.

Last November, the offices of Malaysiakini and The Star were raided by police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) over their reports on the transfer of a top government official involved in the SRC investigation.


Earlier this week, UMNO Mminister Abdul Rahman Dahlan filed a defamation suit against Malaysiakini over a vox populi article on his “reverse migration” remark.This is the second lawsuit against the country’s top news portal from a key member of the government. In 2014, Najib sued Malaysiakini for publishing readers’ comments which criticised him for alleged money politics.

Meanwhile, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar has vowed that there would be more Internet policing on social media, as Malaysians “have shown to be less than mature” when posting their views.

The Communications and Multimedia Act will also be amended when Parliament resumes its sitting in March to block sites from defaming the national leadership, warned Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak.

Centre for Independent Journalism co-director Jac Kee has expressed serious concern over the troubling drift in the media industry.“If the purported news is true, then it signals a worrying trend where alternative news sources are becoming more scarce and under threat – not just from increasingly heavy-handed content regulatory laws, but also the tough economics of running online content sites.

“Unless we have a policy and legal environment that values and protects press freedom and diversity as fundamental pillars of a functioning democracy, then our media will always be at risk of such gaming tactics to consolidate power,” she said when contacted.

It has also been reported that KiniBiz – a joint-venture between business editor P Gunasegaram and Malaysiakini – is to end both its print and online run. An announcement will be made on February 1.

11 thoughts on “Malaysia: End of Media Freedom?

  1. Speaking of which, MCMC uses Akta Komunikasi dan Multimedia 1998 (AKM98) to suggest Dato Din to take down the post. Was there a provision in AKM98 to give MCMC such authority?

    Perhaps NSC would be a more fitting bill for the request? Any lawyers who can advise on that?

  2. Din, in view of that MCMC letter to you, I now tend to doubt the SR’s report on the 37 recomended prosecution actions. The SR’s report on the matter was also denied by the SPRM which was involved in the investigation of the case. Media, especially those online, need to develop better disciplines & sense of responsibility.

    How naive can you be. Najib’s reactions show that he is nervous and vulnerable. Do you think RM 2.6 billion in his bank account is fiction?. Are you suggesting that Teoh Beng Hock, Altantuya, Ahmad Sarbani, Hussein Najadi, and Kevin Morais are still alive. Come on. I expect a more intelligent comment out of you. –Din Merican

  3. Are you sure the letter was addressed to you? It is addressed to En. Din………. By the way, man did try to dam the rivers in Sarawak but it is still work in progress. Hmm Hmm.
    These guys, petty bureaucrats, do not know that I awarded a Datoship by Tuanku Sultan Abdul Halim of Kedah, now King for the second time, several years ago.My Grand Uncle, Dato Ismail Merican, Legal Adviser of Kedah under Tuanku Sultan Abdul Hamid was the first in my family to receive the award. My late Mother received the BCK, Bintang Cemerlang Keadah–Din Merican

  4. Din: I’m sure you were prepared and expected this would happen. Malaysia is not a real democracy, whence comes true freedom of speech? Our founding fathers had intended it to be a democracy, but since Tun Razak it had turned into an authoritarian state. Now under his son the country is becomig a dictatorial one. The wood is dark and deep, but you have promises to keep. Charge, old fighter, one fight more. I’m behind you.

    Yes, LaMoy,I expected it. It was just a matter to time. I am flattered this blog is being monitored. But I wish the ideas in it are worth a lot if our government uses them to better governance. You see, Robert Frost said it well, as follows:

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
    But I have promises to keep,
    and miles to go before I sleep.–Robert Frost

    Not to worry; it comes with the territory. Someone is terrified at the loads of truth.–Din Merican

  5. Thanks Din for your response. If you care to examine my posting above in details, you will undoubtedly see that my comment: “…I now tend to doubt on the SR’s report on the 37 recomended prosecution actions….” was LIMITED TO THAT ASPECT OF THE SR PORTAL’S REPORT. The actual SPRM recommendations could well be other than 37 – may be just 3 or 7 or nothing which may not be possible. You have misread my posting……

  6. Cannot silence the Wall Street Journal or Sarawak Report.

    And then when the monetary authorities of the various countries investigating the case release their reports ………….

  7. “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets..” was what Napoleon said and he should know a thing or two about dictatorship.

    Anyways, I was expecting this from the Minions.

    You should be flattered or maybe not.

    Your adversaries are awaiting their membership cards into the Tin pot Dictators Club, hence whatever they do doesn’t really denote any kind of intelligence.

    And after all one does yearn for worthy opponents.

  8. One more thing, if the Minions were really concerned about BERITA PALSU, then why haven’t they clamped down on Utusan and its ilk. That’s right because the Warlocks at Utusan have said they “spin and fabricate for the government”.


  9. Dato, berani kerana benar, takut kerana salah. MCMC really got nothing better things to do. What a waste of taxpayers money.

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