UPDATED PLEASE READ FOOTNOTE The expected changes in management at the Umno-controlled New Straits Times Press have thrown up the unexpected piece of news that Malaysiakini is in talks with the Malay Mail on some form of share exchange.
While changes at NST are not unexpected considering its declining circulation, it is a surprise to read in the the Malaysian Insider that one of the country’s earliest web-based newspapers would consider associating with Umno, a party that is steadfastly against freedom of the press.
Malaysiakini chief executive Premesh Chandran has since issued a denial. “There is no discussion about Malay Mail getting a stake in Malaysiakini or vice versa.”
Notably, the rumoured new head of the NST is Abdul Jalil Hamid, Najib’s media strategist and chief propagandist, who is notorious for allegedly having directed newspapers on how to demonize the Bersih 2.0 rally in July.
Strange that after the huge fiasco blamed for Prime Minister Najib Razak’s plunge in popularity, Abdul Hamid still gets what is essentially a promotion or is he a scapegoat for Omar Mustapha, the Petronas director who also oversees Najib’s media activities. Whichever the reason, NST shareholders may end losing the most.
What the deal means
There was concern that a deal between Malaysiakini and the Malay Mail would essentially leave Abdul Jalil Hamid in charge of Malaysiakini.
If that happened, it can be assumed that Umno and Abdul Jalil will not attempt the NST’s ham-fisted type of propaganda once they have control of Malaysiakini.
Instead BN propaganda will be presented in more subtle or ‘subliminal’ form to try to influence those who depend on the internet for their news.
Unable and unwilling to implement any form of real change in the BN’s draconian policies, Najib opted for meaningless pseudo-reform which he announced on the eve of Malaysia Day. Najib’s ‘reforms’ included taking the curious course of replacing one bad law, the ISA, with two!
Najib then tabled a budget that is almost criminal in its blatant attempt to buy votes. the growth figures that Najib used as the basis for his spending spree are impossible targets in today’s global economic environment.
Having failed to sell this unpalatable mess to the people using their usual propaganda channels, Najib and Umno may now look to gain control of Malaysiakini and other web-based outlets to spread their usual disinformation, fabrications and deceptions.
Pricing would also be another major point of interest to cyber-citizens. Looking at the gory sums paid out to the disgraced FBC Media of some RM83 million, and to APCO of some RM77 million, what is money to Najib? especially when it belongs to taxpayers!
Malaysia Chronicle is not retracting this story as Malaysiakini claims. in fact, we stand by it. we have as a matter of courtesy included the denial extended by Premesh Chandran, but his denial is as good as the claim made by the Malaysian Insider. we leave it to readers to gauge for themselves the value and veracity of this story.
We would also rubbish the claim made by Malaysiakini that this story implied a share swap between themselves and Umno-linked personalities. we are awaiting their reply to the claims made against us in their article No truth in M’kini-Malay Mail share swap claim.
Related Story: Confirmed, Jalil to take charge at NST
Malaysia Chronicle appends below the Malaysian Insider story about the Malay Mail share exchange
Umno realigns media units with eye towards polls
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s media strategist, Abdul Jalil Hamid, is expected to head newspaper publisher New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad (NSTP) from Monday as Umno realigns its media units ahead of the next general election expected by early 2012.
The Malaysian Insider also understands that apart from changes in NSTP, another Umno-linked newspaper, the Malay Mail, is in talks to take news from the MalaysiaKini web portal in exchange for shares in the tabloid. MalaysiaKini, which began in 1999, has been interested in the print media for some time and is suing the Home Affairs Ministry for a publishing permit.
Malaysiakini chief executive Premesh Chandran has since responded to this report, saying that “Mkini is not selling out, neither are we buying a stake in Malay Mail”, via microblogging service Twitter.
Both media companies have planned for a relaunch on November 11 with the Malay Mail returning as a paid morning tabloid while the NSTP’s flagship New Straits Times will sport a new design. it is learnt that NSTP’s current group managing director, Datuk Zainul Ariffin Mohammed Isa, will return to lead the company’s e-Media unit that focuses on putting more content online.
It is also understood that the publisher’s Umno-linked parent, Media Prima Berhad (MPB), have agreed to a “mutual separation” with NSTP chief executive officer Datuk Anthony @ Firdauz Bujang. His post has been re-designated as chief operating officer and is expected to be filled by Mohammad Azlan Abdullah, the current chief executive officer of MPB’s Big Tree Outdoor Sdn Bhd.
“The decision was made at a board meeting yesterday. Both MPB and Anthony have agreed that he can leave but the real surprise is moving Zainul Arifin out effective this Saturday,” a source told the Malaysian Insider.
Several other sources confirmed the new appointments, with one saying that NSTP was abuzz with news that Jalil would take over the newspaper company, which is now a subsidiary of MPB.
“What we hear in Balai Berita is Jalil Hamid, ex-Reuters and ex Securities Commission, will be the new group managing editor,” one newspaper editor told the Malaysian Insider, referring to the NSTP headquarters in Jalan Riong here.
Another source confirmed that only two changes were made in the board meeting yesterday and MPB group managing director Datuk Amrin Awaluddin is expected to brief NSTP staff later today on the changes in the top posts. Anthony took up his post in November 2008 while Zainul Arifin has led the editorial team since July 2009.
Jalil is a widely-respected journalist who had only worked with national news agency Bernama and international newswire Reuters Ltd before it became ThomsonReuters PLC. he was seconded to head Najib’s National Communications Team in September 2010 from the Securities Commission (SC), which he joined as its senior general manager in the Corporate Affairs Department in 2009.
Apart from serving twice in the Reuters Kuala Lumpur bureau, Jalil has also worked in Reuters’ offices in Singapore and London, specialising in commodities, equities and political news.
He was in the news in July when criticised over a leaked note to Umno informationc chief Datuk Ahmad Maslan advising local media on coverage of the July 9 Bersih 2.0 rally calling for free and fair elections. Several newspapers demonised the rally and its organisers while the government cracked down on the rally which is now subject of a public inquiry by the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam).
New COO Mohammad Azlan has been with Big Tree since 2001 and will continue to report to Amrin. he holds a Bachelor Business Degree (Accountancy) from University of Tasmania, Australia and is a full member of the Certified Practising Accountant (CPA) Australia and Chartered Accountant, Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA).
Media executives say the NSTP stable of newspapers remains profitable and will benefit from increased advertising expenditure in 2012 due to campaigns related to the London Olympics and Euro 2012 football competition. but it is understood the owners are unhappy with the English-language New Straits Times’ editorial coverage and shrinking circulation.
“It is making money but readership is falling off for the NST. Only the Bahasa Malaysia papers are doing well,” an executive told the Malaysian Insider on condition of anonymity. he added that Umno officials had expressed concern and had recommended personnel changes recently.
The Malay Mail, which first began in publishing in 1896, is now under the Redberry Media group that bought a 75 per cent stake of the tabloid from the NSTP group in 2009. it became a free afternoon newspaper in may 2008 but has recently announced plans to revert to being a paid daily.
Both media groups are supportive of Najib, who last month announced that newspapers will not be subject to annual licensing under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 as part of a wider liberalisation package that his political foes say is linked to snap polls next year. – ENDS- Malaysian Insider.
Below is the Malaysiakini response
No truth in M’kini-Malay Mail share swap claim
Reports claiming that Malaysiakini is working on a share exchange deal with media interests aligned with Umno are false, the company’s chief executive officer, Premesh Chandran said today.“There is no truth in the allegations that Malaysiakini will be sold to Umno-backed interests,” Premesh said.Malaysiakini has been operating since 1999 as an independent media organisation and will remain so, he added.the speculation was sparked by a report in the Malaysian Insider saying Malaysiakini would be providing content to the Malay Mail in exchange for equity in the afternoon tabloid.Following this, another online portal, Malaysia Chronicle, suggested in a follow-up report that a share exchange deal might take place, resulting in Umno-backed personalities gaining control of Malaysiakini.“We have asked Malaysia Chronicle to retract their story immediately,” said Premesh, adding that the news portal made no attempt to contact Malaysiakini for verification.
At the time of writing, both Malaysia Chronicle (left) and the Malaysian Insider (top) have updated their respective reports to reflect Premesh’s denial.
Over the past 12 years, Malaysiakini has been accused of links with various political and business interests, none of which were true.the majority stake in Malaysiakini remains with its two co-founders, Steven Gan and Premesh.the next largest stakeholder is an international media investor – the Media Development Loan Fund – which bought just under 30 percent of Malaysiakini in 2002.the remaining Malaysiakini shares have been distributed to its staff over the years, as recognition for their contributions to the organisation. – END- Malaysikini