Dong Zong Concerns over Retrenchment in Utusan Melayu The Freedom of the Press in Media is Mandatory  

Statement Released by Dong Zong

August 21, 2019

Dong Zong Concerns over Retrenchment in Utusan Melayu

The Freedom of the Press in Media is Mandatory


Dong Zong concerns over the retrenchment of Utusan Melayu and its partner press “Kosmo!” due to financial difficulty which culminated salary in arrears. We urge the late Utusan Melayu Holdings to disclose their financial status of the two papers for public supervision; meanwhile, Dong Zong also beseeches the government to face up to journalists’ right of labour, and to ruminate the way to media environment reform and the freedom of the press.


News media owns the fourth power to supervise the government, and the freedom of the press is the overarching value of a democratic society which cannot be denied. Attributed to historical factors, Utusan Melayu has since been the confined Friday man of political party and is caught in a dire calamity in democratic transformation. As disclosed, its administration does not observe labour and management agreement, and salary in arrears is a commonplace. We decry its inhumane practice towards the interests of its staff. We believe, without labour right, freedom of the press will perish. The protection of labours’ working environment assures the quality of news report. We opine that the Utusan Melayu retrenchment begs for a necessary reform of the entire industry and system. Our inspirations are as follows: (1) political party should not be in any way directly or indirectly run or invest in the media industry; (2) the monopoly of media should be forbidden by law; (3) the revocation of media suppression and its policy should be in place; and (4) cultural policy such as the freedom of speech should be guaranteed as it decides the upward development of media and the freedom of the press.


Utusan Melayu is time-honoured. Prior to Independence, Mr Lim Lian Geok, the late President of Jiao Zong was invited by Utusan Melayu to contribute an article entitled “The Psychological Construction” for the Fast-breaking Festival message. In the article, Mr Lim raised that all ethnic groups in the country should work in unity, keeping “prosperity and coexistence” in mind for the upward mobility of the nation. His idea remains until this day among Chinese the guiding principle in the fight for multi-cultural right.


It is well acknowledged that Utusan Melayu had contributed its part in the advocacy of anti- British colonisation and had scored a prestigious point in the history of the freedom of the press but not afterwards. During the fifties, Utusan Melayu abounded with respectful and seminal writers, journalists and social movement activists like Said Zahari, Usman Awang, A. Samad Said, Samad Ismail and Kamaluddin Muhamad. To our regret, after the fifties when it was “nationalised” by political party, the freedom of the press was muzzled. Utusan Melayu has since become the mouthpiece of the party until today.


We think Utusan Melayu should promptly settle the salaries in arrears and pay for the retrenchment. Active engagement in negotiation to ensure the interests of the labours is a priority. Lastly, we urge political party in general to detach from newspapers operation; all parties and the government as well as politicians should be abstinent and keep their hands out of the media. Simultaneously, the government should take the initiative to prevent media monopoly to safeguard media diversity and pluralism, hopefully to formulate a mechanism which vows to prevent the media from becoming the mouthpiece and dresser of political party.