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Utasan Malaysia in possible reprieve

Peter Lee

Yesterday, we reported that the Board of Malay language newspaper, Utasan Malaysia, had announced its closure with effect from today. This morning, it is reported that they have changed their mind while politicians continue to try to score points off each other over the issue.

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The news this morning is that the publisher has decided on a rescue plan - one which if successful, he says will reduce its losses but does not say that it will bring it anywhere near profit.

The publisher says that the plan is to add a one third increase to the cover price of the printed editions and that he hopes that "Malays" will increase their purchases. But that does not solve the underlying problems alluded to in yesterday's report, it merely postpones them.

More political comment has raised as many questions as it's answered. Anwar Ibrahim, whose political career is, to say the least, checkered has alleged that the paper has been left to die by its former owner, UMNO, saying that UNMO is penalising the newspaper because "it is upset with it." Anwar is a former UMNO minister and now putative next PM with a party called PKR.

The rescue plan, without any indication as to where funds are to be found, includes a statement that staff will be paid an interim salary payment of up to MYR2,000. Given that they have not been paid since June, that works out at less than GBP200 per month with no indication as to when the balance will be paid and whether future salaries will be met.

In the meantime, Utasan Malaysia has reported that "fans" are upset that a young woman has posted "sexy" photos of herself on Instagram. Decide for yourself at https://www.instagram.com/miss..., which is loaded with third parties' spamverts. There are insulting comments which are far outweighed by the "likes" and the criticisms of the detractors, a fact which Utasan failed to report. This is relevant because the newspaper claims to be the Voice of the Malays but it is selective in its reporting which means, of course, that its circulation is constrained to those that know what stance it will take and agree with it, turning it into a niche publication. If it is serious in widening its circulation, it might find it difficult if it reports from a narrow perspective, especially when the realistic prospects for increased returns from increased prices are likely to be felt in urban centres where modern and less polarised views are more common.

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