Malaysiakini (English: "Malaysia Today") is an online news portal published in English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil. Since its launch on 20 November 1999, it has been widely considered to be one of the leading non-government owned paid-news agencies in Malaysia. Malaysiakini claims that its site now receives over 2.3 million page-views per day on desktop and mobile. Alexa ranked malaysiakini.com as the 13th most popular web site in Malaysia (first in term of online news portal) in 2015. In 2013, Malaysiakini's parent company launched two sites - business portal KiniBiz and internet TV news site KiniTV.
Unlike most news sources in Malaysia, Malaysiakini remains free from government regulation. Its political stand is disputed, as it claims to be independent but the public and mainstream media have acknowledged it as being pro-opposition.
Malaysiakini was founded by Premesh Chandran and Steven Gan in November 1999. Frustrated with constraints on his previous reporting for The Sun, Gan decided to use the Multimedia Super Corridor pledge to create a space for uncensored journalism. The site began with a staff of five journalists and a starting budget of $100,000. Gan served as its editor-in-chief. For its first story, Malaysiakini posted a report on 20 November criticising the practices of Sin Chew Jit Poh, Malaysia's largest-circulation Chinese-language newspaper. Sin Chew Jit Poh had doctored a photograph of Malaysia's ruling party to remove Anwar Ibrahim, who had recently been imprisoned for corruption. According to BBC News, the Malaysiakini report led to "worldwide infamy" for Sin Chew Jit Poh, and the newspaper later issued a public apology. In April 2001, Malaysiakini made news again when it discovered and reported the secret detention of 10 political activists.
The Malaysiakini website is updated daily, except for certain public holidays. Its news coverage concentrates mainly on local events, with a strong emphasis on items related to Malaysian politics. Malaysiakini also publishes columns, blogs and features that offer diverse viewpoints, both on local and international issues. Malaysiakini claims to practice an editorial policy that is consistently supportive of justice, human rights, democracy, freedom of speech and good governance.
Malaysiakini publishes its readers' opinions in its letters section. The letters section has generated active participation from readers of all races and religions and of various ideological backgrounds, creating an open arena of public debate unseen in Malaysia since the 1960s. Among other common topics are taboo subjects such as migrant workers, AIDS, Islam and racial quota systems. Malaysiakini claims to avoid exercising excessive editorial control on the letters section, as it attempts to foster a spirit of reasoned discussion.
In September 2012, Malaysiakini was admitted to receiving grants from National Endowment for Democracy and other organisations. Premesh Chandran, the CEO of Malaysiakini said that Malaysiakini is "transparent about such partnerships". The foreign grants "form a small part of Malaysiakini's budget". He also said that Malaysiakini is 70% owned by its co-founders and staff. He claimed that despite receiving grants from international donors, the editorial independence was not compromised. He said about the matter in a statement in response to media reports following controversy over funding provided by National Endowment for Democracy to human rights group such as SUARAM and a host of other organisations, including Malaysiakini.
Malaysiakini’s former editor YL Chong claimed that George Soros indirectly funded the online news portal and that the online news portal refused to allow this fact to be known and that the former editor resigned in protest.Malaysiankini, of course, refuted these allegations.
Malaysiakini applied in 2010 for a license to circulate the newspaper in print, which was rejected by the Home Ministry. It successfully appealed in the High Court and the High Court judged that Malaysiakini was to be issued a publication permit. The Home Ministry appealed the High Court decision in the Court of Appeal. The appeal was dismissed. Legally victorious, the newspaper requested the Home Ministry again for a permit. However, the application was rejected again.
In 2001, Malaysiakini won a Free Media Pioneer award from the International Press Institute.
Gan himself won a 2000 International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists, "an annual recognition of courageous journalism". In July 2001, Businessweek named him one of the "Stars of Asia" in the category "Opinion Shapers" for his work with the website.
In 2014, it received Social Media Award during Worldwide Bloggers and Social Media Award 2014 in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysiakini has attracted its fair share of controversy. In March 2001, police in the Malaysian state of Selangor lodged a report against the website for quoting comments questioning the official death toll from racial rioting in the city of Petaling Jaya. In July of the same year, a university student leader filed a report claiming that a letter published on Malaysiakini bearing his name was not written by him.
However, the most serious incident occurred on 20 January 2003 when Malaysiakini was raided by the Malaysian police. Four servers and 15 personal computers from its office worth RM150,000 (US$39,500) were seized during the raid. The police raid was instigated after the right-wing cadres in UMNO Youth, an arm of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), complained that a letter written by "Petrof", a reader, and published on Malaysiakini's website was seditious. In its police report, UMNO Youth claimed that the letter had questioned the special rights and privileges of the Bumiputras that are enshrined in the Constitution. Additionally, UMNO Youth claimed that the letter also contained false allegations that the Malaysian government was unfair to other ethnic races in the country. The seizure of the hardware temporarily silenced Malaysiakini, though it eventually resumed its normal operations.
On 1 April 2005, Malaysiakini published a fake news report alleging that four unnamed senior government officials were being charged for corruption. The report turned out to be an April Fool's joke, albeit published with the intention of casting the spotlight on official corruption, a problem still rife in Malaysia. These caused quite a stir in Malaysia with the government ordering a probe on the news organisation.
In May 2007, the news portal was sued for defamation by then Chief Minister of Sarawak, Abdul Taib Mahmud in the Kuala Lumpur High Court, an apology, unspecified amount of damages and injunction against Malaysiakini and Gan, for 12 articles between 6 April and 3 May that year. The suit was retracted in January 2012 after the news portal made an apology in public court for publishing unverified news.
On 10 April 2015, the news portal published an article in which it claimed that Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) president, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang supported Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). PAS President Office refuted these allegations a day later as "misleading".Chin, James (2003). MalaysiaKini.com and its Impact on Journalism and Politics in Malaysia. In K.C. Ho, Randy Kluver, & C.C. Yang (Eds.), Asia.com: Asia Encounters the Internet, pp. 129–142. London: RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0-415-31503-4.