Oriental Daily's editor-in-chief Puah You Lai said many newspaper vendors had complained to him that the four major dailies Sin Chew Daily, Nanyang Siang Pau, China Press, and Guang Ming Daily had tried all sorts of ways to stop them from distributing the new daily.
"They used both persuasion and intimidation. Some were told to stay out of Oriental Daily for a month while others were threatened that their supply of the four newspapers would be cut off if they distributed our newspaper," he said when contacted.
"But these vendors are now coming forward to share their experience. Many of them chose to ignore the threat and 'advice' and went on distributing our newspaper," he added.
He said "it was pathetic" that the four established newspapers had resorted to such dirty tactics to maintain their sales instead of competing in a fair manner.
Launched on Jan 1, Oriental Daily is distributed for free for a month and will be sold at RM1.20 per copy after the promotion period. It is funded by KTS Group owned by Sarawakian timber tycoon Lau Hui Kang.
Meanwhile, a newspaper distributor in Negeri Sembilan said he had not received any of the four established Chinese dailies since he started distributing Oriental Daily last Wednesday, thus affecting his income.
"It (the supply) just stopped. No reason was given," said Tan Tuan Siah who has been in the business for over two decades.
He said the harassment did not stop even after his regular supply of newspapers was disrupted.
"The marketing staff from the four newspapers came to my shop. They would take note of who have taken Oriental Daily and follow these vendors to see where the newspaper is sent," said Tan, who is a committee member of the state's Association of Newspaper Vendors.
However, he conceded that the threat by the four dailies was issued verbally and thus difficult to prove.
Tan said he had sent a letter last week asking for the intervention of the Malaysia Federation of Newspaper Vendors' Associations to end the "nonsense" but has yet to receive a reply from its president Tan Choon Huat.
Choon Huat could not be reached for comments despite numerous attempts.
Insulted by statement
Tan also said he felt "insulted" by a Sin Chew Daily's statement yesterday which claimed that it had to "protect the distribution and retail network established by us [Sin Chew] over the years".
The statement, published in colour on page three of the newspaper, denied Sin Chew was involved in any plot to block the distribution of Oriental Daily which was just "trying to gain support by playing a victim".
However, Tan stressed that it is the newspaper vendors, not the dailies, who look for customers and subscribers.
"It is not Sin Chew that give us names and addresses [of its readers] and ask us to deliver the newspapers. How can they claim that it is 'their' network?" he asked.
He stressed that there was no contract signed between any newspaper company and the vendors which confine the latter to selling only one particular newspaper.
"We are independent vendors. We do not receive wages from them. Our income comes from whatever newspapers English, Malay or Chinese that we sell," he said.
In September, Oriental Daily had its 'soft launch' and distributed over 40,000 copies free at selected locations in the country. But its printing permit was immediately suspended by the Home Ministry due to what many believed to be political interference.
Sin Chew and its sister daily Guang Ming Daily are published by Pemandangan Sinar Sdn Bhd, while Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press were acquired by MCA last May.
Tiong Hiew King, owner of Pemandangan Sinar, is said to be a close associate of MCA president Dr Ling Liong Sik and a business rival of KTS's Lau.
Lau's Oriental Daily was given back its printing permit after a series of negotiation with the government last month.