Malaysian Insider news portal to shut down from midnight Monday

The Malaysian Insider (TMI) editor Jahabar Sadiq.
The Malaysian Insider (TMI) editor Jahabar Sadiq. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR -  The Malaysian Insider (TMI) news portal on Monday (March 14) announced its closure after operating for eight years, citing commercial reasons.

The portal’s owner,  The Edge Media Group, will shut down the site from midnight on Monday.

“Despite the fact that TMI is one of the top three news portals based on traffic in Malaysia because of its courageous news reporting, it did not receive enough commercial support to keep it going,”  Group Chief Executive Ho Kay Tat said in a statement.

He said the group incurred losses of about RM10 million (S$3.4 million) since its acquisition of TMI in June 2014 and the company was “no longer in a position to keep it going”.

In a separate  statement posted on the news portal, TMI editor Jahabar Sadiq said: "I hope we have served you well since our first day of going live on February 25, 2008. And I hope others will continue to serve you in our absence,''

He said the news portal had worked to "make all voices heard in this marketplace of ideas".  

“But our work in The Malaysian Insider has now come to an end in a Malaysia that more than ever requires more clarity, transparency and information,” he added.

TMI has been blocked in Malaysia by the multimedia commission since Feb 25, the day of the site’s eighth anniversary.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) blocked the site for breaching laws under the Communications and Multimedia Act, which prohibits web publish of contents that are “obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person”.

The move by MCMC came after the news portal published a controversial article on corruption investigations into Prime Minister Najib Razak. 

Despite TMI setting up a mirror site called The Malaysian Outsider, the weblink was also blocked in Malaysia several days later. 

The move was criticised by the United States, with State Department spokesman John Kirby issuing a statement earlier this month to say that Washington was “very concerned” by Malaysia’s move to restrict the media and “troubled” by the authorities’ lack of transparency.

According to Mr Ho, three parties were keen to purchase TMI after the group’s announcement in January that it intended to dispose off the site as part of the company’s restructuring efforts. 

However, no agreement was reached and Mr Ho said that the company believed the site’s recent problems with MCMC “made it more difficult for a sale to be concluded even though discussions had started before that”.

All of TMI’s 59 staff would be let off with a severance package, Mr Ho said.

TMI, one of Malaysia’s oldest news website, has been seen as critical of the government in a media landscape where print and broadcast journalism is still controlled by authorities. It has published stories on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the scandals involving Datuk Seri Najib.

Almost a year ago, TMI also got into trouble with authorities after an article related to the monarch was published, and its editors were arrested and detained overnight by the police for questioning. No charges were filed. ​