The Malaysian Insider is gone, long live journalism!
By Zan Azlee
Almost 8 years of writing my column for The Malaysian Insider on a weekly basis that I am now starting to already suffer from withdrawal symptoms.
Take today, which is a Thursday (the day of writing), for example. It is the day that I would normally write and submit my column to TMI for publication on Friday morning.
But it has been three days since the sudden shutdown of the site and I am left with idle hands and mind today. I swear I almost started breaking out in rashes.
Before I go on, I would like to express thanks to The Malaysian Insider who has provided Malaysians with balance and thoughtful news and discourse.
I started out contributing to TMI from their very first year of publication and it begin with providing a sort of weekly video blog which eventually transformed into a written weekly column.
[Check out some of the videos I produced for TMI below]
Throughout the years, I even started to contribute a few special reports and a ten-week long special multimedia feature on Afghanistan for TMI.
Personally, the work that I have done for them has been some of the most fulfilling for me as a journalist and I feel honoured and happy to have been a part of the site.
And I feel a gratitude to the main individuals who gave me the opportunity; Joan Lau, Leslie Lau and Jahabar Sadiq. So thanks guys!
Although we should have seen this coming for some time now, it would seem that with the death of TMI, the death of journalism in Malaysia is looming even closer.
We’ve seen the signs before this. Journalists who would seem to have done nothing wrong were hauled up for interrogation and detention by the authorities.
Publications like The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily were suspended for months. And even the international press has been harassed.
This can be seen in the case of Linton Besser and Louie Eroglu, the two Australian journalists who were arrested when they tried to question the prime minister on the 1MDB controversy.
I know some say they were really grandstanding when they approached the prime minister, but grandstanding or not, their arrest and deportation is an intimidation on freedom of speech.
And now Putrajaya is considering tightening the leash on journalism even more with plans to require online news organisations and even bloggers to register just like how print media has to.
I know that the official reason given by The Edge Media Group for the shutting down of TMI is due to commercial reasons. They could not make the site financially sustainable.
Advertising and sponsorship was hard to come by even if TMI was one of the top three most viewed news website in the country. There’s no money in news, apparently.
But the root of the problem is because journalism is seen as a threat by the authorities that they make sure that pressure is put on journalism and whoever that supports it.
As a journalist, I feel fearful for the future of my profession. As a Malaysian, I feel fearful of the future of my children, my fellow countrymen and my country.
But that doesn’t mean that I will stop doing what I believe to be right. And I also know that the former TMI team aren’t going to stop either.
We need to fight for the survival of journalism in Malaysia.