At the end of August 2019, Utusan Melayu Bhd announced that newspapers Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo! will cease publication due to poor sales and the failure to achieve monthly advertisement target.
Then, UMNO injected RM1.6 million into the press company after a meeting between the party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Utusan’s board of directors.
Consequently, operation was resumed at Utusan, but the price for both Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo! were increased by 50 sen, to RM 2 and RM1.50 respectively.
Nevertheless, the poor performance was not the only financial trouble faced by the press company. It was reported that Utusan has been owing salaries to approximately 800 staff, amounting to RM3.2 million.
The RM1.6 million from UMNO was just half the amount of the salaries owed to the Utusan staff.
Less than two months later, Utusan announced that the press company will shut down for good on October 9.
Common reasons raised behind Utusan’s failure were because of its close relation with UMNO and its bias reporting on the party, along with its incapability to cope with the news reporting trend in the digital era.
Former New Straits Times Press (NSTP) group-editor-in-chief Datuk Kadir Jasin said the fallout of Utusan started since the Badawi-era.
He claimed that the formation of the infamous “fourth-floor boys” had interfered into Utusan’s press freedom, which made its publications to be perceived as biased by the public.
Kadir elaborated that the situation in Utusan went from bad to worse after Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was succeeded by Datuk Seri Najib Razak as Malaysian Prime Minister.
Then, Najib hired political negotiators and advisors like Habibul Rahman Kadir and Paul Stadlen to control the mainstream media
Kadir is currently serving as the media and communications advisor to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
However, Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin refuted Kadir’s claims. Instead, he stated that Utusan’s image was tarnished during the Reformasi Movement in 1998.
Khairy elaborated that the bias reporting by the mainstream media on former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s first sodomy case was the beginning of Utusan’s downfall.
Previously, the fourth-floor boys were led by Khairy during Badawi’s premiership. It was a controversial issue because Khairy is Badawi’s son-in-law. Besides, Khairy was also appointed as the Minister of Youth and Sports by his father-in-law.
Nevertheless, this might not be the end of the Utusan brand as the oldest Malay-language newspaper in the country.
Utusan Melayu Bhd had been shut down. But the newspaper ‘Utusan Malaysia’ will be revamped under its new management, Aurora Mulia, a firm which was reported to be linked with local tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary.