After months of battling with the Malaysian government over several scandals and critical articles, The Edge Media Group has announced it is closing popular news website The Malaysian Insider (TMI).
In its final article yesterday, editor Jahabar Sadiq wrote a post urging journalists to continue to provide transparent and open coverage of Malaysian politics, which many are disillusioned with given the ongoing corruption scandal involving prime minister Najib Razak.
"We worked as impartial journalists to inform Malaysians and other readers so that they make informed decisions. We worked to make all voices heard in this marketplace of ideas," Sadiq wrote.
"I won’t put down my pen, I won’t lay down my camera, I won’t shut up, and I won’t be blinkered or turn a deaf ear to what goes on in Malaysia and the world. And I urge all of you to do the same."
In a statement, The Edge Media Group (TEMG) said it had seen losses of 10 million ringgit (US$2.4 million) since acquiring TMI in June 2014, and could not maintain the news site.
The group went further and blamed the government for making it difficult to sell TMI given its harsh measures taken against TEMG publications in the recent past.
In March last year, five editors at The Edge and TMI, including Sadiq, were arrested for alleged sedition over an article regarding Islamic criminal laws.
Just four months later, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission suspended three titles, including two belonging to The Edge, for their reporting on the 1MDB investment fund scandal, which Razak is heavily mired in.
TMI was also blocked by the government, with readers inside Malaysia using VPNs to access the website. Despite this, TEMG said it was one of the top three news sites in Malaysia based on traffic.
In its statement, TEMG said: "We believe the recent problems TMI had with the MCMC had made it more difficult for a sale to be concluded even though discussions had started before that."
Moreover, speaking to the Guardian, Sadiq said Malaysian state-owned companies "have been told not to advertise with us," severely hampering TMI’s commercial support and ultimately contributing to its closing down.
In a Facebook post, TMI signed off with its trademark defiant tone, stating: "The struggle for a free press does not end with the closure of The Malaysian Insider."
Several Malaysian politicians and national figures took to social media to express their support for TMI.
@tm_insider woke up this morning and no insider. Sad day. They slammed me and Airasia a lot. But that made me better.— Tony Fernandes (@tonyfernandes) March 15, 2016
Another infamy chalked up in Najib’s seven-year premiership – the death of The Malaysian Insider https://t.co/eWv8aX34IW— Lim Kit Siang (@limkitsiang) March 14, 2016
The last 24hours independent journalism in Malaysia suffered a grave setback with the closure of @tm_insider & deportation of ABC reporters.— Tian Chua (@tianchua) March 15, 2016
According to the 2015 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, Malaysia stands 147th out of 180 countries for press freedom, above neighbouring Singapore at 153.