80-year-old Utusan shuts down (Updated)

09 Oct 2019 / 22:32 H.

PETALING JAYA: Local Malay daily Utusan Malaysia and its sister publication Kosmo! officially ceased operations today, with more than 700 employees to be served with a dismissal notice.

Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo! failed to meet the target of RM4 million monthly advertising revenue,“ its chief executive officer Datuk Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir said in a statement today.

According to an online news portal, the decision was made as the newspaper company is unable to bear the burden of its accumulated debts over the years, estimated to be between RM240 million and RM340 million.

The nation’s oldest Malay language newspaper which has been in operation for 80 years said in a statement today that it had sent out an internal memo to inform all of its employees that its board of directors approved on Oct 7 the creditors’ voluntary liquidation and has appointed UHY Advisory (KL) Sdn Bhd as its interim liquidator.

Meanwhile, Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa urged all quarters not to be nostalgic over the closure of Utusan Malaysia, despite its rich history in the industry, as the shutting down of companies is part and parcel of doing business.

Annuar said he believed the decision to cease operations was purely a business one and while some might be sentimental over the decision, this was “business reality”.

“There are two issues here pertaining to their closure. One is sentiment, the other is the reality of business,” he told reporters when met in Parliament, here today.

Utusan’s decision to stop publication is unfortunate, as it has existed even before independence, and was one of the newspapers to have played a leading role in promoting nationalism and pushing for independence.

“But we must not be nostalgic over history when it comes to business. The shareholders and board of directors have made a decision and we must respect that,” he added.

Commenting further on the matter, Annuar said Umno — which formerly owned Utusan — would not interfere in the publication’s decision, as the party was no longer part of Utusan’s board.

“We can give our opinion but we can’t do anything else, because the party no long has power over Utusan. We don’t own them any more,” Annuar said.

Datuk A. Kadir Jasin, communications and media adviser to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, said Utusan faced a lack of trust in its reporting, a dwindling circulation and advertising revenue.

“In a nutshell, I must say Utusan had lost its momentum and business dynamics,” he said on his blog.

Kadir, who is former News Straits Times Press (NSTP) Group editor, said the appointment of new faces to head the media-related department for Umno and government intervention in news reporting led to a reduction in sales.

“One of their biggest mistakes was to use the mass media to break Dr Mahathir’s legacy and make Abdullah (former premier Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) stand out,” Kadir said.

“The ‘fourth floor boys’ in the Prime Minister’s Department during Abdullah’s administration should be blamed,” he said, adding they were the ones who had power on Umno-related mass media.

He said the excessive and unprofessional interference caused readers to lament that the newspaper, television and radio belonging to Umno-related companies were no longer neutral and lack credibility.

“That was the beginning of the end to the quality of journalism and also news publications for the Utusan Group,” he added.

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