KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1 – National Union of Journalists (NUJ) president Hata Wahari blamed Utusan Malaysia editors and what he called their racial rhetoric for the daily’s declining sale.
He also called on the authorities to act against Utusan Malaysia editors for fanning racial sentiment in its reports.
“Utusan Malaysia which used to enjoy daily circulation of 350,000 has now become government’s propaganda tool in playing up racial issues and creating discord among the people of various races,” said Hata (picture) in a statement today.
“NUJ Malaysia also calls on the authorities to act against the chief editor and other editors of Utusan Malaysia for undermining racial harmony in the country,” he added.
Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) figures for the full year ended June 30, 2010 showed that Utusan Malaysia’s circulation dropped from 181,346 to 170,558, or a drop of 5.9 per cent.
“NUJ Malaysia hopes that the chief editor and editors of Utusan Malaysia will revert to the objectives of the newspaper during the early days of its publication,” said Hata who is also an Utusan Malaysia journalist.
The Utusan Group was founded in Singapore in 1939 by Malay intellectuals including the republic’s first president Yusof Ishak who were critical of the then colonial government.
The company is now controlled by Umno and Utusan Malaysia has been accused by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders promoting racial hatred in its reporting.
It had accused Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng of being anti-Malay and recently launched an attack against DAP’s Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching for alleged failure dress appropriately in her visit to a mosque.
“Failure of the authorities to take action against Utusan Malaysia chief editor and editor would only show that they are consenting to the agenda of creating racial discord in the country by a racist and undignified newspaper,” said Hata.
He also urged editors of other mainstream dailies that have suffered declining circulation to stop from being government propaganda tools.
“The union also asks editors of mainstream media especially Utusan Malaysia, New Straits Times, Berita Harian and the The Star to play the role of disseminating information to the public and not as propaganda machinery of the government, political parties, or any individual,” said Hata.
The ABC report also showed that The Star’s circulation dropping from 295,479 to 286,409 (-3.1 per cent), the New Straits Times from 120,770 to 109,341 (-9.5 per cent), and Berita Harian from 183,187 to 160,597 (-12.3 per cent).
Sales of the three newspapers and Utusan Malaysia have been falling these past five years, with all but The Star registering drops of 20 per cent or more between 2005 and 2009.
So-called “light reading” newspapers like Malay-language Harian Metro and Kosmo, on the other hand, continue to go from strength to strength, posting higher sales numbers this past year on top of already impressive circulation numbers.
Kosmo was the biggest winner with a massive 32.9 per cent jump in circulation from 129,633 last year to 172,252 this year. Harian Metro also managed to chalk up an impressive 11.8 per cent rise in circulation to 378,354.
The weekend editions of both newspapers, Kosmo Ahad and Metro Ahad, saw similar increases of 35.1 per cent and 11.5 per cent, respectively.
All Chinese-language papers managed slight single-digit bumps in sales this past year, with the exception of Guang Ming Daily which slipped by 2.67 per cent to 95,158.
Circulation for Sin Chew Daily went up from 374,757 to 382,578 (2.1 per cent), China Press from 159,034 to 160,841 (1.1 per cent) and Oriental Daily News from 97,882 to 103,827 (6.1 per cent).
Free paper The Sun recorded a 4.38 per cent boost in circulation from 287,935 to 300,512.