Malaysiakini today launched a Bahasa Malaysia version of its news portal to become one of the first online media in the country to have a website in two languages.
The portal located at www.malaysiakini.com/bm will carry original Malay language content as well as news and articles translated from the existing English version.
"With Internet penetration increasing dramatically, it is prime time for malaysiakini to expand its reach beyond the English-speaking community," said chief executive officer Premesh Chandran.
While there are no statistics on the language preference of Internet users in Malaysia, Malay language newspapers form about 30 percent of the daily newspaper market with professionals, managers, executives and businessmen consisting just over 20 percent.
"We believe that the number of Internet users preferring to read Malay language content is growing fast. However, unlike English language readers, these users do not have as much content to choose from. We believe that there is a strong market for independent media providers like malaysiakini to tap into, " said Chandran.
"Although malaysiakini has always offered a significant amount of Malay content, a fully Malay version will increase the number of visits to the site, and ultimately they will consider subscribing," he added.
With more Malay-language readers, malaysiakini hopes to increase inter-ethnic discourses on burning issues confronting the country.
"We will actively write about issues affecting all communities, not just Malays. Our aim is to cross ethnic cleavages and encourage a deeper understanding of multiracial Malaysia that goes beyond the narrow confines of racial politics," said editor-in-chief Steven Gan.
The Malay version of malaysiakini will be helmed by news editor Nash Rahman.
Nash has been in the media industry for over 25 years and was chief news editor in Berita Harian in the late 1980s.
He has also served as editor in various local publications specialising in Malaysian politics, including the now defunct Malay-language daily Watan.
According to Nash, the launch of the Bahasa Malaysia version will provide the opportunity for Malaysians to follow closely the latest news in the country from a reliable source of information.
"We will publish credible and independent news especially on the latest political development in the country, which the readers will not find in the government-controlled media.
"And with online media, the readers will read today's news today," he said.
There is more to come in malaysiakini.
In the next two months, malaysiakini will be launching a lifestyle section as well as a Chinese-language version of the website.