Question: Is MalaysiaNow still around?
The short answer is: Yes, we are.
But we can no longer pay the small team which, throughout MalaysiaNow's three years, built it into the most daring of online portals, publishing the goings-on behind news headlines and exposing unbelievable political realities, all minus the usual cloak of anonymity.
Launched without fanfare in September 2020, this mosquito portal began on a gamble by four or five staff with no assurance of any job security whatsoever. But it grew into a portal feared for its revelations on politicians whom many innocently held as saviours of the nation.
Three years and a general election later, our reports have jived with some of the biggest and most brazen political hypocrisies witnessed since independence.
A casual search through our 40,283 stories will show the number of headlines and controversies that can be traced back to us.
We were the first to go to town, questioning the attempt by the previous government to gift property worth RM100 million to former prime minister Najib Razak. This meant that Najib, who is now in jail, had no hope of receiving the palatial mansion courtesy of the taxpayers, and it also meant that we saved the government that amount of money.
But the RM100 million bungalow was just one of the many revelations from this skeletally staffed portal.
Our over one million monthly readers* will recall our exposure of the dealings between Anwar Ibrahim and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, notably how they roped in Najib to topple the Muhyiddin Yassin government at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, as administrations around the world grappled for some semblance of political stability.
We published for the first time their conversation by phone as they laughed and congratulated each other after the Umno general assembly in 2021.
We also reported, repeatedly, how Pakatan Harapan and Umno would bury their differences for the "greater good" of attaining power – a scenario that still haunts us today in a graveyard of promised reforms.
And just a week before we broke the sad news to our committed staff, we unearthed a little known plan to charge traders using DuitNow QR, a service provided by a company controlled by Bank Negara Malaysia which profits from almost every daily banking activity performed by ordinary Malaysians.
Ranked among these reports has been our coverage of the downtrodden and sidelined – whether the poor, the stateless, the migrants or the prisoners – whose stories we told through short films and photo galleries that reached millions of readers.
Despite our limited resources, our stories on statelessness, for example, set the standard as we delved into the plight of those who live as nobodies in the only country they have ever known.
We also called out corporate sleaze and stuck to our guns despite the threat of legal suits because, unlike big media groups, we are not answerable to advertisers who peddle cheap airfares and "super apps" to an unsuspecting public.
Close to 170 photo galleries by our talented photographers, and thousands of video clips including more than 140 tastefully produced short documentaries on Malaysian life, are testament to the quality of our journalism.
All this despite the financial odds against us and, lately, the brazen harassment of independent media outlets like ours.
Indeed, it is such harassment from people in high office who issue ultimatums for the censorship of content and the amendment of headlines that has pushed us to wonder if it is worth continuing in the face of the constant fear of blocks by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission which, as recently as last month, threatened us for reporting facts.
We have since ceased all normal updates. But the flood of well-wishes and the response of those shocked by our decision to end operations has prompted us to keep up the good fight.
Should we stop at a time when major events are happening within and outside of the country, especially when we feel that many news outlets have let down their readers by regurgitating the same content in the name of survival?
There is still so much to report, to reveal and to expose.
This is what we will be doing in the days to come, although we will no longer be able to operate at full capacity.
For now, this is our promise: Our news will be in small doses, with far-reaching consequences for those blinded by power. And, as usual, we will be proven right.
Watch this space.
Abdar Rahman Koya is CEO & editor of MalaysiaNow.
* Based on Google Analytics and Similarweb statistics as of Sept 10, 2023.