KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's online news site The Malaysian Insight (TMI) on Friday (March 23) said it will suspend publishing from next week, blaming it on failure to start a paywall and reaching its targeted page view numbers.
TMI started in March 31 last year under Mr Jahabar Sadiq, the former editor of The Malaysian Insider online news site which closed in March 2016.
In a surprise statement on TMI on Friday, Mr Jahabar, its editor and chief executive officer wrote: "The Malaysian Insight is stopping publication from next week because we have missed a major milestone in starting a paywall, and page views traffic has not reached the targeted critical mass.
"Hence, we need to review our direction, news operations and commercial viability. The decision to suspend publication in the interim is a difficult one, but was made due to the challenging financial environment faced by The Malaysian Insight and other media outlets.
"The Malaysian Insight thanks its readers and journalists and staff working here since its inception on March 31, 2017."
The closure comes within weeks of the next Malaysian general election, with top officials drafting a Bill to be presented in Parliament next week to curb "fake news".
Malaysia's Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak said on Thursday that his ministry is working with the police to identify news organisations that "break the law", and action will be taken under the Communications and Multimedia Act.
"Of course, we will take action against whoever breaks the law. If they are found to be causing a ruckus, we will take the appropriate action."
"We have not received any reports so far but we are always monitoring and we will wait for the proper documentation from the authorities to block websites or portals if needed," he was quoted as saying by Utusan Online site.
Unlike print publications, which require publishing licences from the government, online media outlets in Malaysia do not require an operating permit.
But the official Internet watchdog MCMC, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, has the powers to block sites that are deemed to be acting against the national interest.
In February, a pro-government Malay pressure group Pertubuhan Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (JMM) submitted documents to the police to look into TMI's finances, alleging foreign funding.
TMI's predecessor site, The Malaysia Insider started operations in early 2007. It often attracted government attention for its reports that were seen as critical of the ruling Barisan Nasional administration.
The Malaysian Insider was taken over by The Edge Media Group in June 2014, which according to media industry sources paid roughly RM4 million (S$1.3 million) for full control.
The Edge, which publishes a financial weekly in Malaysia and Singapore, was hoping to leverage the site's wide following to push into the digital space, said media executives.
But The Malaysian Insider's coverage of financial troubles at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) brought it under closer scrutiny by the Najib administration.
In late February 2016, MCMC blocked access to the news site in Malaysia, before the site shut down the following month.