With some 35 laws restricting freedom of speech, one may hold little hope for the survival of objective and independent journalism in Malaysia. Malaysiakini, an online news portal that was created through a “Super Corridor” loophole, proves otherwise.
Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran, the website’s co-founders, were first inspired, while studying in Australia, by the democratic movement in Asia. After surviving their baptism by fire as journalists in Malaysia’s mainstream media where they had to deal with their editors’ self-censorship and bullying by the authorities, they went on to push through their own brand of fiery independent journalism despite reprisals and financial fluctuations.
Malaysiakini has survived for over a decade. It now thrives as one of the country’s top local websites and is financially sustainable. Its success lies with more than just launching at the right time and right place; it has the right formula of delivering content that the public craves, employing a canny mix of technology and bold journalism, and a revenue model of paid subscriptions. It is a testimony that idealism can be a profitable endeavor.