KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — The blame for Utusan Malaysia’s demise can be placed squarely on the lap of the “Fourth Floor Boys” who used to work in the prime minister’s department for Malaysia’s two former prime ministers, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Datuk A. Kadir Jasin said.
The former New Straits Times group editor-in-chief said Utusan’s demise was imminent the moment these ‘fourth-floor boys’ decided to meddle too much in the newspaper narrative and sway it in Umno’s favour.
Kadir said this was when people noticed its biased reporting and shied away from it, when readers realised that as far as Umno is concerned, there is special treatment, resulting in the paper losing its credibility.
“The ‘fourth-floor boys’ working in the prime minister’s department during Badawi’s time are to blame for this.
“They were in charge of controlling the mainstream media particularly involving Umno and they interfered too much and were unprofessional. One of their biggest mistakes was to use the media to kill Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s legacy and prop up Abdullah,” Kadir wrote on his personal blog.
“That’s when the degradation of the quality of reporting and the decrease in sales from Utusan group and NSTP (New Straits Times Press) group started.”
Kadir said matters became worse due to Utusan’s unpreparedness to face the digital age and the failure of the national education system for students’ lack of interest in reading.
He said the majority of Malays especially after Malaysia’s independence from the British made reading Utusan part of their daily routine.
He then added that if the ‘fourth-floor boys’ during Badawi’s time were bad, then during Najib’s rule it became worse.
“With the help of negotiators locally and abroad represented by names like Habibul Rahman Kadir (a known Najib associate and corporate figure) and Paul Geoffrey Stadlen (Najib’s former media advisor) they did the slash and burn on the mainstream media.
“As a result, mainstream newspapers like Utusan Malaysia, Berita Harian and New Straits Times, as well as tv stations TV3, were rejected by the readers and viewers.
“The irony is all the newspapers and their publishers were “Malaysianised” during Tun Abdul Razak Hussein’s time but later struggled due to the son’s immunity,” he said.
Kadir said he does not see any way for Utusan to recover besides finding a buyer with deep pockets who is committed to its ideals that were rooted in years past.
He hopes that in due time, Utusan can regain its credibility by observing proper journalistic etiquette, be professional and of high quality to rekindle readers’ interest.
“A world without writers is dangerous and perverse. Social media cannot replace the role mainstream media play that has writers, editors and reporters,” Kadir added.
Earlier today, the Human Resources Ministry confirmed that Utusan Melayu Bhd has officially notified it of its decision to cease operations.
A ministry spokesman said Utusan chief executive Datuk Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir also confirmed the content of a company circular issued to all employees today.
Malay Mail reported the closure based on a leaked copy of the circular this morning.