The Brunei Times has announced its closure, stating that it no longer has sustainable resources to continue its media and publication operations. The company’s Board of Directors is said to have agreed with the course of action.
In a page one announcement yesterday, it said the shutdown was due to business issues, reporting and journalistic standards that should meet the mark set, and also issues relating to business sustainability, especially in the face of considerable challenges from the alternative media.
The English daily owned by Brunei Times PLC, was offered on a complimentary basis until July 16, 2006, later moving to a compact broadsheet format in 2010.
However, a news portal has given a reason for the shutdown. JournalismPakistan.com said the English daily was ordered to shut down for running a story about an increase in Hajj and Umra visa fee by the Saudi government.
According to JournalismPakistan.com, the paper quoted an official of the Saudi embassy as saying the hike for the Brunei residents was the result of Saudi Arabia’s economic problems.
The portal added that however, the embassy complained to the Sultan of Brunei that the official quoted in the story was not authorised to speak, so the paper should be closed down.
Only a one day’s notice was served on the newspaper to cease operations.
The portal, quoting a journalist from the English daily, said: “The government had been angry with the paper for quite some time for its work but the Saudi Embassy story proved to be the final straw.”
According JournalismPakistan.com, 175 employees are left jobless upon the shutting down of the newspaper. However, the portal didn’t provide any evidence to back up its report.
Meanwhile, several journalists from the English daily have expressed their discontent over the decision on the social media.
Former journalist, Christine Tan, said: “There is not press freedom here at all. If you think Malaysia is bad, press freedom does not exist here.
“The news are always either about government officials or about the Sultan. The press here are not allowed to criticise event he government.
“The only thing that makes the Brunei Times different is that it has a column that features public’s letters where they voice their distress on new government policies.
“Otherwise, there is nothing newsworthy in the newspaper. Even when a small wooden jetty collapses it passes off as news in the papers.”
Tan added that for Brunei Times to allow the readers’ column that features the people’s grouses was to distinct itself from other mainstream newspapers.
The Brunei Times is one of the small sultanate’s several leading newspapers which has been criticised by international press freedom NGO, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for its “self-censorship”.
The NGO’s official summary of Bruneian press freedom also states that self-censorship is the rule for journalists working for state-owned Radio Television Brunei and for the leading (officially independent) newspapers – the Borneo Bulletin, The Brunei Times and Media Permata.
Source : Soo Wern Jun@The Heat Malaysia Online