Sustaining journalism: Let’s do our part

This is going to be personal, and some of you may be feeling the same as I’m writing on the shutting down of The Malaysian Insider.

It was only last year that I started to read TMI and I had been enjoying it since. Because it is my dream to be a journalist, I started to write quite regularly, and it was mostly to TMI that I sent my articles. And TMI had been generous in publishing each of the articles I sent.

TMI was not selective in that they were open to our opinions regardless of our political views. I once stated the obvious about the suspicious 1MDB, and I also wrote about giving PM Najib second chance(s), both of which were published. So when critiques said that TMI was biased to the Opposition, they were not entirely true.

Comparatively, it was true that news talking about the inefficiency of the Government outweighed the news about the good things that the Government made. But if indeed the government was inefficient, why would it be wrong to report on the mismanagement of the country by the regime in power?

Personally, I, and I’m sure the rest of you, have nothing against the Government if they are efficient. But the reality is, our country is in a mess. With so much national controversies going around, how can we just act cool?

As we can’t expect the Government to listen to us, we find other alternatives to make ourselves heard. And TMI provided that space. Now that TMI is no longer with us, we can no longer speak, at least not as freely.

When impartial news portals are repressed, citizens will only have access to news that the Government approves of. In turn, the Government will be too powerful as they conquer information dissemination through media. And such a climate will only oppress people further as we’ll lose our voice and worse, we’ll be in a state of ignorance.

On the shutting down of TMI, they had to be closed down because of “commercial reasons”. Since the block by the Government, TMI had been losing advertisers whom they depended on to keep running TMI. That resulted in a loss amounting to RM10 million. So in spite of being in the top 3 of the most visited online news portals in Malaysia, and in spite of having close to 3 million readers per day, TMI had to say goodbye as they were not making profit. This brings about the question: Would we pay for good journalism?

In general, I don’t think we would want to pay for news. Personally, I would opt for free news portals if accessing good news portals means I have to pay. But, of course, this is detrimental, especially to those working to provide news for us.

Days past, I read about The Rakyat Post’s temporary shut down. And it was for the same reason: not making profit. The workers have not been paid for two months! All these show that as responsible citizens, we should consider paying for news.

MalaysiaKini made a smart move of making people subscribe to their news for them to access the news. But even so, in a BFM podcast featuring the TMI editor, Jahabar Sadiq, he said that MalaysiaKini is barely making profit as subscribers share their accounts with non-subscribers, meaning those who don’t pay are still able to read the news.

So, I think, there should be a working law to protect the rights of news organizations, which should include matters regarding subscriptions to ensure that the people behind the news are paid accordingly. And more importantly, news organizations should be free from political interference in that the Government must not penalize them if they report on the Government’s mismanagement. As it stands now, it’s only a dream to have free running media.

Also, I think, it’s high time for us to consider investing in good journalism. Of course, if possible, we want everything for free! But free items are not always good.

 

Nur Adilah Ramli

 

 

 

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