Malaysian Insider to Close After Government Blocked It Following 1MDB Coverage
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—The owner of a Malaysia news site that had been blocked by the country’s government after critical coverage of troubled state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd. has decided to shut it down, its chief editor wrote in an article posted to the site Monday.
“Goodbye readers from near and afar, and those reading us in Malaysia despite the government block,” editor Jahabar Sadiq wrote. “The Edge Media Group has decided to shut down The Malaysian Insider from midnight today, for commercial reasons.”
The government blocked access to the Malaysian Insider website earlier this month. Two of The Edge’s other publications, The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily, weresuspended by the Malaysian government for two months last year after reporting on the problems swirling around the investment fund, known as 1MDB, and the growing pressure on Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is chairman of the fund’s advisory board.
The Edge subsequently began downsizing and laying off some staff in February after the suspensions and loss of advertising hurt its earnings, according to an internal memo seen by The Wall Street Journal. Other Edge publications are continuing to operate normally.
The Edge said in a subsequent statement that despite its “courageous news reporting”, the Malaysian Insider “did not receive enough commercial support to keep it going.”
Both the U.S. State Department and the United Nations Human Rights Council last week issued statements expressing concern over a crackdown on media and free speech in Malaysia after access to The Malaysian Insider was blocked earlier this month.
Malaysia’s foreign ministry responded to the criticism from the U.S. by saying in a statement that, “While Malaysia upholds freedom of speech and right to information, such freedom and right must be exercised responsibly and with accountability.”
In a separate incident, a television reporter and cameraman with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. were briefly detained in Malaysia on Saturday after attempting to interview Prime Minister Najib Razak while he campaigned ahead of a coming state election in the Borneo state of Sarawak. The two men, Linton Besser and Louie Eroglu, were released in the early hours of Sunday morning and their passports were subsequently returned, one of their lawyers said.
Pressure on Mr. Najib has grown since The Wall Street Journal reported last year that government investigators had found hundreds of millions of dollars had entered his personal bank accounts via banks, companies and other entities linked to 1MDB. The probe didn’t name the source of the funds or say what happened to the money.
Mr. Najib, 62, has denied wrongdoing or taking money for personal gain. The 1MDB fund also has denied wrongdoing or taking money for personal gain, and has said it is cooperating with investigations. Malaysia’s attorney general said the funds were a legal political donation from Saudi Arabia and that most of the money was returned.
Australia’s government is raising the arrests of the journalists with Malaysian authorities, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said.
“Australia supports freedom of speech, we support the role of journalists in reporting news around the world, and so we will do what we can to get to the bottom of this issue and make representations at the highest levels within the Malaysian government,” she said on local television Monday.