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|Publisher||Mkini Group Sdn Bhd|
|Founded||November 20, 1999|
|Headquarters||PJ 51, 9, Jalan 51/205a Off Jalan Tandang, PJS 51, 46050, Petaling Jaya, Selangor|
Malaysiakini (meaning in English: "Malaysia Now") is a pioneering online news portal in Malaysia, having kicked off in 1999. It is published in Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil, and is ranked among the most read news portals in Malaysia.
At the time of its founding in 1999, traditional print and broadcast media were tightly regulated and controlled by the Barisan Nasional government. Malaysiakini attempted to achieve an independent voice without interference and restrictions from shareholders, advertisers or the government.
Malaysiakini is unaffiliated with Malaysianow - a much smaller rival news website that uses the English translation of Malaysiakini as its name.
Malaysiakini was founded by Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan in November 1999. Frustrated with the constraints they experienced while working for The Sun newspaper, Premesh and Gan decided to use the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) pledge to create a space for uncensored journalism.
The site began with a staff of five journalists and a starting budget of $100,000, raised with the initial versions of the publication prepared by Premesh. Premesh served as CEO, and Gan served as its editor-in-chief.
For its first story, Malaysiakini posted a report on 20 November, 1999 criticising the practices of Sin Chew Daily, Malaysia's largest-circulation Chinese-language newspaper. It reported that Sin Chew Daily had doctored a photograph of Malaysia's ruling party to remove Anwar Ibrahim, who then had recently been imprisoned for corruption.
In April 2001, Malaysiakini made news again when it discovered and reported the secret detention of 10 political activists for participating in a rally in favour of the imprisoned former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.
Print permit rejection
Malaysiakini applied in 2010 for a license to circulate its content in print as a newspaper, which was rejected by the Home Ministry. It successfully appealed in the High Court and the High Court judged that Malaysiakini was to be issued a publication permit. The Home Ministry appealed the High Court decision in the Court of Appeal. The appeal was dismissed. Legally victorious, the newspaper requested the Home Ministry again for a permit. However, the application was rejected again.
After leading Malaysiakini’s newsroom for 23 years, Gan stepped down as the news portal's editor-in-chief in January 2023.
“It has always been my intention to give way to the next generation when they are ready. The time has come,” Gan said, who also cited an eye ailment, which made it difficult to continue his work. He now occupies the nominal role of editor-at-large.
Similarly, co-founder Premesh had stepped back from his role as Malaysiakini's chief executive officer in 2022.
While the co-founders have reduced roles in the daily running of the news portal, the duo continue to sit on Malaysiakini's board of directors. Since their departure, the editorial team has been led by executive editor RK Anand and managing editor Ng Ling Fong.
Publishing fake news as April's fool joke
On 1 April 2005, Malaysiakini published a fake news report alleging that four unnamed senior government officials were being charged for corruption. The report turned out to be an April Fool's joke, albeit published with the intention of casting the spotlight on official corruption, a problem still rife in Malaysia. This caused quite a stir with some readers expressing their disappointment at the editorial and the government ordering a probe on the news organisation.
In September 2012, Malaysiakini admitted to receiving grants from National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and other organisations. Premesh Chandran, the CEO of Malaysiakini said that Malaysiakini is "transparent about such partnerships" and that the foreign grants "form a small part of Malaysiakini budget". He also said that Malaysiakini is 70% owned by its co-founders and staff. He claimed that despite receiving grants from international donors, the editorial independence was not compromised. Other than Malaysiakini, other organisations and human right groups in Malaysia such as SUARAM also reportedly having received funding from the NED.
In 2016, Malaysiakini's former editor YL Chong claimed that George Soros indirectly funded the online news portal and that the online news portal refused to allow this fact to be known and that he had resigned in protest. Malaysiakini refuted these allegations.  Malaysiakini was probed by the government as a result.
On 20 January 2003, Malaysiakini was raided by the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM). Four servers and 15 personal computers from its office worth RM150,000 (US$39,500) were seized during the raid. The police raid was instigated after the right-wing cadres in UMNO Youth, the youth arm of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), complained that a letter written by "Petrof", a reader, and published on Malaysiakini's website was seditious. In its police report, UMNO Youth claimed that the letter had questioned the special rights and privileges of the Bumiputras that are enshrined in the Constitution. Additionally, UMNO Youth claimed that the letter also contained false allegations that the Malaysian government was unfair to other ethnic races in the country. The seizure of the hardware temporarily halted Malaysiakini's operation, though it eventually resumed its normal operations.
On Feb 25, 2014, red paint was splashed outside Malaysiakini's then office premise at Bangsar Utama, Kuala Lumpur. A cardboard box with a duck inside was left at the main entrance. The box had a photograph of DAP's Seputeh MP Teresa Kok strapped to it. The act was perceived as a threat to Malaysiakini and its staff.
In 2015, political cartoonist Zunar (Zulkiflee Anwar Haque) whose work has run in Malaysiakini for many years, was charged under the Sedition Act 1948 for criticising the Malaysian government in a number of posts on Twitter and was charged under the Sedition Act 1948. The charges were dropped after the change of government in 2018.
On Nov 5, 2016, right-wing Umno leader Jamal Yunos led a group of his Red Shirt protesters to the entrance of the news portal's new office premises in Petaling Jaya. They called for Malaysiakini to be closed down but stopped at a (temporary) police barricade and eventually left.
Abdul Taib Mahmud bribery allegation
In May 2007, the news portal was sued for defamation by then Chief Minister of Sarawak, Abdul Taib Mahmud in the Kuala Lumpur High Court. He demanded an apology, unspecified amount of damages and an injunction against Malaysiakini and Gan, for 12 articles between 6 April and 3 May that year. The suit was retracted in January 2012 after the news portal made an apology in public court for publishing unverified news.
Raub Australian Gold Mine suit
Malaysiakini had been sued in 2012 for publishing several articles and videos about residents' concerns over pollution allegedly linked to Raub Australian Gold Mine's gold mining operations in Malaysia. The company had said the articles were defamatory and malicious.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court in 2016 ruled in favour of Malaysiakini on the grounds of responsible journalism and reportage, but the decision was later overturned on appeal. The Federal Court upheld the appellate court's decision in a 3-2 majority ruling, saying Malaysiakini had not been "fair, disinterested or adopted a neutral approach" in reporting the residents' campaign against the mining activities. The ruling came amid concern among activists about freedom of expression in Malaysia, with Malaysiakini perceived to be particularly targeted as one of the most widely read independent news media source.
Contempt of court over readers' comments
On 19 February 2021, Malaysiakini was found guilty of contempt by the Federal Court of Malaysia over five user comments posted on the website that the Malaysian Attorney General claimed undermined public confidence in the judiciary. The news website was fined RM 500,000 Malaysian ringgit (US$123,644). However, Malaysiakini's editor-in-chief Steven Gan was not found guilty of the offence. The website sought public donations to pay the fine and received donation exceeding the fine amount within the span of roughly four hours.
In covering the trial, the BBC in an article called Malaysiakini: The upstart that changed Malaysia's media landscape said that "Malaysiakini's success so far, its very survival, are all the more remarkable in a country where all news media was once subject to government control, and in a region where truly independent, quality journalism is difficult, dangerous and often driven to the margins."
The New York Times meanwhile wrote a piece called 5 Reader Comments Just Cost a News Website $124,000 in which they wrote that Gan and Malaysiakini were being punished for the outlet’s diligent reporting. It quoted Gan as saying that the court's decision would "have a tremendous chilling impact on discussions of issues of public interest and it delivers a body blow to our continual campaign to fight corruption."
Awards and recognition
Gan himself won a 2000 International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists, "an annual recognition of courageous journalism". In July 2001, Businessweek named him one of the "Stars of Asia" in the category "Opinion Shapers" for his work with the website.
Through the years, Malaysiakini has won various awards and accolades from the International Press Institute, Reporters Sans Frontiers, Committee to Protect Journalists, Asiaweek and Businessweek.
Malaysiakini is also the only media organisation in Southeast Asia nominated to the prestigious World Economic Forum’s International Media Council.
The news portal has developed a reputation for providing a platform for academics and writers such as Jomo Kwame Sundram, Farish A. Noor, Faisal Tehrani, Uthaya Sankar SB and Wong Chin Huat to reach a wider audience.
Columnists have also included activist Hishamuddin Rais, independent preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin and award-winning investigative journalist R. Nadeswaran. Additionally, Malaysiakini associate editor Martin Vengadesan was named best columnist in the 2022 Malaysian Press Institute awards.
The news portal’s special reports on issues such as the 50th anniversary of the May 13 riots, environmental exposes and presentations on Budgets and elections, have frequently garnered multimedia awards at local and regional award ceremonies.
In November 2023, academic Janet Steele published Malaysiakini and the Power of Independent Media in Malaysia, a book detailing the company’s journey and impact.
- The Star (Malaysia)
- Malay Mail
- Free Malaysia Today
- The Malaysian Insider
- Steven Gan
- Zulkiflee Anwar Haque
- Wong Chin Huat
- Hishamuddin Rais
- Jomo Kwame Sundaram
- Farish A. Noor
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