It is an open secret that the mainstream presses in Malaysia were controlled by Barisan Nasional to a certain extend.
Based on an article by Malaysiakini, UMNO owned 49.77% of Utusan Malay (M) Bhd which make them the majority shareholder. Thus, UMNO is in control of Utusan publication. Same goes for The Star which MCA have 42.46% stake in Star Media Group.
Besides, UMNO was in control of Media Prima. The Malaysian government and GLCs (EPF and PNB) have a total of 32.3% stake in the media company. Media Prima is in charge of three publication: New Straits Times, Berita Harian and Harian Metro.
With the high percentage of stake in mainstream presses’ parent company, BN will be able to use these newspapers as their mouthpiece.
As we can see from the exposure of Najib-1MDB, it has low exposure prior to PRU-14. Najib tried to disassociate himself from 1MDB.
Hence, 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda came out and gave statements that shine positive lights on 1MDB. In return, the presses were just doing their job by reporting on his statement.
Nevertheless, the presses did not come out with articles of Pakatan Harapan politicians questioning on 1MDB.
Besides, the mainstream presses tried to avoid touching on the topic of 1MDB in their reporting prior to PRU-14.
When they do, they reported on matters that are on the international level. For example, the seizing of a luxury super yacht, Equanimity, in Indonesia which was owned by Jho Low. He is the primary businessman link to the 1MDB scandal.
The presses were neutral in their reporting by just writing on what the Indonesian authority said. Nevertheless, they linked Equanimity to Jho Low. Najib was not named.
But, the media landscape has changed after Pakatan Harapan took over the federal government after PRU-14. They openly attacked on Najib and 1MDB.
Today, Utusan have become a tamed newspaper rather than a neutral newspaper. The UMNO paper have to be this way because of the current situation, PH is the government and BN is the opposition.
For The Star, NST and Berita Harian, they have their own self-censorship before PRU-14. They are bias in the sense that they don’t give space for Pakatan Harapan to campaign for the general election. Now, the situation has changed. They have become much more neutral because they have to report on both side, PH because they are the government and BN because they are their indirect boss.
However, they will still be waiting for the government to make mistake because their attack on PH will then be justifiable as they are just doing their job as a journalist. In a way, it will benefit the public by providing a check and balance on the current government.