MALAYSIA NEWS: Threat of sedition charges shuts down press freedom

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Photograph: www.themalaysianinsider.com
Photograph: www.themalaysianinsider.com
Photograph: www.themalaysianinsider.com

The news portal The Malaysian Insider went offline on the first minute of 15 March 2016 – the Ides of March. With that, 59 staffers, including me, lost our jobs. And Malaysia lost another source of independent news.

The closure was ostensibly due to an inability to secure a deal with potential suitors and to stem losses that rose to RM10m (US$2.4m) in the 20 months it was held by the Edge Media Group

But it came nearly three weeks after the internet regulator – the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) – issued a block order against us over a report that claimed the local anti-graft agency had sufficient evidence of a criminal charge against the prime minister Najib Razak, although the country’s attorney-general had cleared him of wrongdoing.

The anti-graft investigations began last July after the Wall Street Journal revealed that nearly US$700m had been found in the prime minister’s bank accounts.
First there was a denouncement of that report, but the source of the money was never clear: was it a personal donation or from any government? Suffice to say it remains a mystery today, despite investigations.