MORE than 800 employees of Utusan Malaysia are left confused with the company’s direction as they are not given an explanation relating to the future of the country’s oldest Malay publication.
Utusan Malaysia National Union of Journalists chairman Taufek Razak in a press conference also slammed the company’s executive chairman Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir for not engaging with the staff since retaking the post last February.
Today, the company has announced its immediate shutdown, and asked all staff members to return for a final briefing on October 30 to know their fate.
“The way that we are treated is inhumane. The notice served is very short.
“The top management can easily arrange the meeting early on but they chose to treat us in a very unprofessional way.
“At today’s briefing, no one from the top management level is with us. The human resource manager is not here, the finance manager is not there, the executive chairman is not there.
“We had been briefed by our head of department who could not produce a concrete answer about our future.
“Do we deserve to be treated in this manner?”
Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Berhad’s management announced its shut down today in an internal memo to staff members earlier today.
The decision was made as the company is no longer able to shoulder the burden of its debts accumulated over the years, estimated at between RM240 million and RM340 million.
Taufek said all 862 employees have been given a month’s leave and required to come to the office at the end of October for a meeting where a final decision will be made as to their fates.
“We are not sacked or terminated. We are all given a month’s leave by the company starting today.
“However, we need to clear our things from the office as the building is no longer owned by Utusan.
“We are required to come again for a final briefing on October 30. On that day, we will know whether all of us are terminated or if we are going to join a new company.
“As for now, we are still Utusan Malaysia’s staff members.”
Recounting Utusan’s predicament, Taufik said the paper should have heeded NUJ’s advice that it should be free from political interference or any affiliation with political parties.
“Umno should have let go all of its shares in Utusan the day they lost power.
“In the 1960s, Utusan wanted to be free and independent. Today, this is still the reason why we want to be free and independent.
“If we had been free from political power, we would still be around.”
Taufik said the Utusan Malaysia NUJ chapter tried to meet with Aziz several times but he kept postponing the meeting.
“We called, we sent messages but every time we spoke to hime, he would give promises and then he would break them. From one date to another, he kept postponing.
“Such a coward for not having the guts to meet us and discuss about the company’s future. We are all confused.” – THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT
Kadir trains guns on Pak Lah, Najib’s ‘fourth-floor boys’ over Utusan’s fate
A Kadir Jasin pointed out that the lack of trust in Utusan Malaysia’s reporting led readers to shun the former Umno mouthpiece, resulting in dwindling circulation and advertising revenue.
“In a nutshell and to be brutal, I must state Utusan had lost its momentum and business dynamics,” said the veteran newsperson in a blog posting.
Kadir, who is also Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s communications and media advisor, was commenting on news reports that Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Bhd is ceasing operations and its staff were told to vacate the office by 1pm this afternoon.
According to the former News Straits Times Press (NSTP) Group editor, the rot of the mainstream media started with former premier Abdullah Badawi’s advisors.
“What was called the ‘fourth-floor boys’ in the Prime Minister’s Department during the Abdullah administration are to blame.
“They were in control of the media linked to Umno… Their excessive interference and unprofessionalism led readers to believe that newspapers, television and radio (stations) owned by companies linked to Umno were partisan and lacked credibility,” he added.
At the time, the fourth-floor team was headed by Abdullah’s Oxford-trained son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin, who is now the Umno lawmaker for Rembau.
Kadir opined that one of their gravest follies was to utilise the mainstream media in their attempt to end Mahathir’s legacy and promote Abdullah (below).
“That was the onset of the decline in the quality of journalism as well as the sales of NSTP and Utusan Groups’ newspapers
“The situation was made worse by the rapid development of digital technology and the failure of the national education system to retain the interest to read among students,” he added.
Kadir said if Abdullah’s advisors initiated the process of decimating journalistic professionalism in Umno-linked media, those in the latter’s successor Najib Abdul Razak’s administration were worse.
“With the help of local and foreign consultants… they conducted ‘slash and burn’ on the mainstream media. In the end, readers and viewers rejected Utusan Malaysia, Berita Harian, New Straits Times and TV3,” he added.
Ironically, Kadir said, these newspapers and publishing groups were “Malaysianised” during the era of Najib’s father Abdul Razak Hussein, who was Malaysia’s second prime minister.
“Now all of them are clinging on to life because of the idiocracy of his son,” he added.
As for Utusan, the veteran newsperson said the newspaper can be rescued if there is a new owner with deep pockets, who is committed to journalistic ethics.
Kadir who was NSTP group editor from 1988 to 2000 during Mahathir’s first tenure as prime minister had also been accused of religiously toeing the government line while the media during this era were kept on a tight leash, providing little room for dissenting views. – mkini
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT / MKINI