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‘Unethical’ Utusan will die a natural death, says ex-editor

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Utusan Malaysia will "die a natural death" even without the government putting a stop to its subscriptions, its former chief editor Zainuddin Maidin said today.

Writing on his blog, Zainuddin claimed that the daily had long ago forsaken the principles of ethical journalism, and its income was largely sourced from its owners Umno rather than from sales.

"If Umno did not fund it from before the 14th general election, Utusan would have 'died' a long time ago because its circulation dropped due to imbalanced coverage.

"Because of this pressure (from Umno), Utusan have morphed into a party mouthpiece with none of the ethics of a daily mainstream publication," he said.

In the run-up to GE14, Zainuddin said the daily’s readers were sickened by its publication of “one-sided, biased, unfair, made up” news, as well as its attacks on then-opposition leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The former minister said that although he was once a loyal reader of the newspaper, he gave up on it two years ago.

He did briefly pick it up again after the historic May 9 polls that saw Umno unseated, but stopped again "after I could see that it has not made any changes as readers would have hoped for.”

Commenting further, Zainuddin said Utusan missed the opportunity to redeem its reputation and boost its circulation after GE14, when there were readers willing to give them a second chance.

"The Utusan editors in charge (today) did not respect the wishes of their readers," he said.

In recent years, Utusan had recorded steady losses up to the third quarter of last year.

It returned to profitability mainly due to gains from the disposal of land amounting to RM31.5 million.

On Aug 1, Utusan Group executive chairperson Abd Aziz Sheik Fadzir said the Umno-owned daily's management would set up a meeting with the Education Ministry to find out why it had cancelled its subscription of the newspaper.

Aziz, who admitted that the move would dent Utusan's revenue, was responding to a memo in which Education Minister Maszlee Malik was quoted as saying that the subscription to be halted.

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