Malaysian PM Najib says he is 'depressed' due to inaccurate online media reports

Government agency Mara is embroiled in a property scandal that is proving to be embarrassing to Mr Najib's (above) administration.
Government agency Mara is embroiled in a property scandal that is proving to be embarrassing to Mr Najib's (above) administration. PHOTO: REUTERS

SHAH ALAM - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that he is "depressed" because the online media these days focuses on speed rather than accuracy in writing up their reports, the Malaysiakini news portal reported him as saying yesterday.

"I am depressed, politicians are depressed because we are easy targets. The print media loses out on circulation and we lose out on votes," he said reporters after a breaking fast event, the news website said.

His comments were made as government agency Mara is embroiled in a property scandal that is proving to be embarrassing to the Najib administration.

Mara, the Malay acronym for the People's Trust Council, dishes out education bursaries and trains Malays to be entrepreneurs.

It suspended two senior officials on Thursday over after opposition politicians and political activists exposed alleged financial dealings in property purchases in Australia.

The online media had last week quoted Mara chairman Annuar Musa of saying one of the over-inflated purchases was approved by Datuk Seri Najib as finance minister, remarks that the Premier quickly denied as being inaccurately reported.

An Australian newspaper had first reported that Mara overpaid by A$4.75 million (S$4.9 million) when it bought in 2013 an apartment building used by students in Melbourne. This week, several other purchases made with alleged over-inflated prices were exposed, leading to the suspension of the chairman and chief executive of Mara Inc, the investment arm of Mara, The Star newspaper reported.

Mr Najib yesterday described as an example of bad reporting the quickly drawn negative conclusions made when the Tabung Haji pilgrimage fund purchased land owned by state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

"News was spread alleging we were using Tabung Haji funds to save 1MDB, even though it was a commercial transaction that would have made Tabung Haji at least RM170 million (S$61 million)," he said.

Mr Najib said: "This is the challenge of the new news environment, where people chase news to publish as quickly as possible to make it viral and shape perception. The accuracy of the news is second to being the first with the news."