Friday, August 3, 2018

Thrashy Utusan Malaysia is in Trouble

Malaysians should be familiar with that thrashy newspaper called Utusan Malaysia – notorious for spewing incendiary rhetoric that touches on racial and religious themes. 

All this while, it is untouchable – simply because it is an UMNO mouthpiece. 

In case you didn’t know, the political party has a 49.77% controlling stake in Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Berhad (Annual Report 2017). 

Even after GE14, the Malay-language broadsheet continues to agitate and provoke. More than just championing Malay supremacy and special rights – it is also into the habit of belittling and besmirching the Chinese community, Christianity and DAP, not necessarily in that order. 

Perhaps because funds have been freely flowing in from UMNO – it doesn’t seem to be at all concerned about its declining circulation. 

In the 1990s, it was selling 350,000 copies a day. By 2004, this has shrunk to about 250,000 copies and in the first half of 2016, it nosedived to 144,438 copies. And according to ABC’s Audit Report, this number slumped to 112,050 copies during the period of July–December 2017. 

Then came the news report that the Education Ministry – in a July 18 memo – had instructed schools, tertiary institutions and other entities under its purview to immediately cancel their Utusan subscriptions. 

The move was, ostensibly a cost-cutting measure. But we all know, it is to punish Utusan for promoting racism and religious bigotry. Utusan’s toxicity level is high – and in a multi-cultural environment like ours – it can create a detonative situation that can blow up into something that is calamitous and destructive. 

Believe me when I say, its venom can infect simple minds and turn them into malevolent hostiles. 

In fact, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad gave his full backing to the decision by the ministry. 

Anyway, this decree will further dampen Utusan’s circulation numbers. 

If the figures do not alarm the Utusan management, they should be reminded that the company has been registering losses for years with zero gross dividend and negative earnings per share. Their reserves of RM169 million in 2013 were obliterated in a mere three years. For FY2017, Utusan recorded negative RM65 million reserves – meaning, they are not only in deep shit but they are sinking in the cesspool too! 

BTW, Utusan’s stock price is presently trading at RM0.21 ($0.05) a share. Penny stock. 

And on Wednesday, Utusan Melayu (Malaysia) Berhad reportedly defaulted on a RM2.9 million loan. Without injection of cash from UMNO, the Utusan Group’s financial woes can only deteriorate further. 

Yesterday, interestingly, Mahathir made two intriguing remarks on the Utusan ban. 

"We are not stopping people from reading the paper. They are free to do so” and "We are not going to arrest people and burn the newspapers”. 

What on earth did he mean by that? 

I venture to suggest that they are snide statements that are like salt in Utusan’s wounds.

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