Malaysiakini is not for sale, said the website co-founders in responding to claims that Umno allies plan to buy out a number of popular news sites, including the country’s No. 1 news portal.
Chief executive officer Premesh Chandran said Malaysiakini has not been approached by such investors nor will the co-founders entertain them.
“We thank our subscribers for supporting us all these years. With their support, we are able to remain financially viable and independent,” said Premesh.
Subscribers pay RM150 per year, or RM388 for three years, to access Malaysiakini .
“We believe asking readers to subscribe is not a big ask,” he said. “In return, we will make sure Malaysiakini remains independent from outside influencers, and continue to report without fear or favour.”
Premesh ( photo ) said that those who have worked with Malaysiakini would be aware that all editorial decisions are made by the website’s journalists and editors.
Meanwhile, editor-in-chief Steven Gan said the co-founders knew from the get-go 16 years ago that for Malaysiakini to remain independent, it has to be financially independent.
“ Malaysiakini will not be where we are today without our supporters, each of whom contributes a small sum of money to ensure that our journalists can carry out the website’s mission of holding power to account.”
Gan stressed that it was the intention of the co-founders for Malaysiakini to be led by its team of journalists and editors.
“ Malaysiakini belongs to them, and to all our readers and supporters.”
According to Gan, the insidious control of the traditional media by politically-linked owners will soon be reflected in the online world.
He said news consumers would need to contribute more if media organisations are to remain independent from politicians and their business cronies.
“If they don't pay for news, there are others who are willing to do so. And at the end of the day, the politicians and tycoons are the ones who get to enjoy press freedom, not Malaysians.”
Prudent in spending
Premesh added that advertising, too, plays a major role in the financial viability of media organisations.
“We have over nine million desktop and mobile phones accessing Malaysiakini every month, we believe this represents a valuable proposition for advertisers,” said Premesh.
Malaysiakini is the only media reaching all four language groups in Malaysia. “We have a large readership which trusts our brand, this certainly offers a great platform for advertisers.”
Nevertheless, not having major financial backers does have its constraints.
“Surviving on advertising and subscription alone forces us to be prudent in our spending. We have to be more cautious with our growth, and without deep pockets we have to cut back in areas we are making losses.
“While we would like to do more and grow faster, that will come at a great risk,” added Premesh.
Gan also tipped his hat to the Malaysiakini team members, many of whom accept lower pay than what is being offered by other media organisations.
“It has not been easy for Malaysiakini to attract and retain talent given our tight budget, and I salute those who have stayed with the team despite getting better offers elsewhere.
“We have also embarked on a programme of training promising young recruits in the hope that they can grow and contribute to Malaysiakini in the years to come.”
Other major investments such as the purchase of Malaysiakini ’s building last year was done with the generous support of subscribers.
“Our readers contributed RM1.7 million via the Buy a Brick campaign. It is inspiring to come to work every morning and see over 1,000 bricks embossed with the names of our supporters honouring one wall of the building.
“It is a constant reminder that we serve our subscribers and readers - and no one else,” said Premesh.