Blocked Malaysian Insider news website shuts down

  • Published
Screencap of farewell message on The Malaysian Insider captured on 14 March 2016Image source, The Malaysian Insider
Image caption,
The Malaysian Insider's editor Jahabar Sadiq posted a farewell message on the site on Monday

A prominent independent Malaysian news website which had been blocked by the government over its reporting has announced it is shutting down.

Malaysian Insider's editor Jahabar Sadiq said it would fold by the end of Monday, citing "commercial reasons".

The website, which has a staff of 59, was banned in Malaysia last month after publishing a controversial report on allegations of official corruption.

Mr Sadiq and others were also arrested last year on suspicion of sedition.

He was released without charge.

In his editorial, Mr Sadiq said the site had "worked as impartial journalists to inform Malaysians and other readers so that they make informed decisions".

He insisted: "I won't shut up and I won't be blinkered or turn a deaf ear to what goes on in Malaysia and the world. And I urge all of you to do the same."

Declining ads

Malaysia has seen increasing curbs on the media amid a political scandal involving Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The ailing state fund 1MDB, founded by Mr Najib, is being investigated by Swiss prosecutors who allege billions of dollars were misappropriated.

Mr Najib has himself been accused of corruption. He has been officially cleared of wrongdoing, but Malaysia has seen mounting political opposition.

The Malaysian Insider was blocked by authorities in February shortly after it published a controversial article on the case.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The Malaysian Insider's block came after it published a controversial article alleging that anti-corruption authorities had enough proof to charge Mr Najib

Authorities did not give a specific reason for the ban, but when the US expressed concerns about it, the government said it had "a responsibility to maintain peace, stability and harmony in the country".

Mr Sadiq told the BBC on Monday that the site, which heavily depends on traffic from Malaysia, had been losing money since then, with advertisers holding off buying ads until the block was lifted.

"One way to snuff us out is to withdraw advertising," Mr Sadiq said, alleging "unwritten pressure" on companies not to run adverts on non-state media.

The site's owner, the Edge Media Group, had been searching for a buyer but had not found a suitable contender, he said.

The Malaysian Insider, which was started in 2008, is among a crop of alternative media sites which have gained a considerable following in Malaysia in recent years. It has been accused by the government of publishing untrue content.

The local mainstream press is known to be tightly controlled or owned by parties in the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional.

Malaysia has also blocked the Sarawak Report, known for its reporting on the 1MDB scandal, as well as blogging platform Medium after it refused to take down an article posted by Sarawak Report.

It also blocked the website of activist movement Bersih last year ahead of street protests calling for Mr Najib's resignation.

Besides the blocks, dozens of dissidents, activists and lawyers have been arrested under the country's restrictive sedition laws - including Mr Sadiq and other Malaysian Insider colleagues, though their case was later dropped.