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Malaysia: Financial Stress Closes Independent Chinese Media Site

Merdeka Review, a Chinese online independent media portal founded in 2005 in Malaysia, was officially closed down in August 31, 2012. Due to the withdrawal of the support of a major funder, the news organization had been under financial stress since 2011.

Public support had managed to help the news website to keep operating until recently; the website is still accessible [zh] to the public.

Its closing statement said [zh]:

停刊之后,《独立新闻在线》将秉持“取之社会,用之社会”的精神,让网站继续保持开放,作为公众乃至学者免费检索新闻史料的研究资源,藉此延续《独立新闻在线》之精神。伺服器公司闻讯,答应赞助一年,令我们深为感动。

《独立新闻在线》停刊,部分原因固然是因为社会缺乏让异议新闻网站得以足以稳健前进之希望与条件,然而民心思变业已发生,且教育日益普及促使读者对何为“新闻”的期许,要比上一代人高很多。在相对威权的社会,网络媒体与民主化进程息息相关,但民主化向前没跨一步之际,网络媒体理应也有更好的客观条件,以利永续经营。
这是我们的期许,能否实现、何时实现,广大读者群“给力”多大,固然能起重要作用,但是完全依赖市场的养分存活,异议新闻网站亦有变质之风险。我们能否想象一个有利于异议新闻网站存活甚至焕发的公共政策?这不仅有赖于广大读者集思广益,亦有赖于从政者与决策者从善如流,坐言起行地推动民主化进程。

Independent Online Media, Merdeka Review, Stopped Operation on 31 August 2012.

Independent Online Media, Merdeka Review, Stopped Operation on 31 August 2012.

Merdeka Review will continue to keep the website online so that the public and researchers can read and research on the news for free. The spirit of an open public space is what we have been upholding. We would like to express our thanks to the data center for one year's free hosting service.

The reason for our shut down is partly related to the lack of social infrastructure to support a dissenting news website even though people have developed a much higher expectation on “news” because of higher levels of education when compared with the older generation. In a comparatively authoritarian society, the relationship between online media and democratization is closely related. Better development and sustainability of online media would help the political reform.We hope such conditions will appear soon. It really depends on public support. On the other hand, we could not rely on the market totally as it would risk the news organization's independent position. Will a public policy help to enhance better conditions for the survival of dissenting news websites? We need to put our thoughts together and advocate for democracy so that decision makers listen to our suggestions.

A large number of the news organization's fans expressed the wish that it would revive again later. Yu-Ling Chong, who is based in Singapore, feels pity for the loss:

Merdeka Review is one of the prominent alternative media in Malaysia. It is very courageous in reporting news that mainstream media in Malaysia do not have the will or the courage to cover. This gives more voices to the community. Moreover, Merdeka Review has been covering the condition of various marginalised groups in Malaysia all these years and gives readers an opportunity to listen to their voice. Therefore, Merdeka Review's contribution is great.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of financial support, Merdeka Review has ceased operations today. No matter how sad and disappointed the readers are, we have no choice but to accept the fact.

We can only hope that one day Merdeka Review will be able to revive and continue contributing to press freedom in Malaysia. May the spirit of Merdeka Review lives on!

Merdeka has inspired many Chinese young people to participate in social and political action. Ah Lye, anactivist in Malaysia writes [zh] in his Facebook on the significance of independent media:

阅读这个媒体整七年,她一路来孕育了我的醒觉,在她里头我学习了不少。谢谢独立新闻在线,能够撑到今天已经是奇迹,过程里有不少人的努力和牺牲。

29 岁到 36 岁,七年里,这个国家经历了很多,我也对这个土地,有了不一样的认识,而你们,肯定在这个七年里,伴随了很多人经历了他们的七年,可能是中学的七年,出来社会的七年,步入中年的七年,结婚生孩子的七年,慢慢老去的七年。尤记得在这七年里一些笔战过的朋友,如今,他们很多应该都已经是社运里的老前辈了。希望你们继续在各自的岗位里,捍卫这个社会的正义。

I have been reading this online media for seven years. It has raised my social awareness and I have learned a lot from the website. I really want to thank Merdeka Review. And it is quite a miracle that it survived for so long. In the process many people have sacrificed.

From 29 to 36 years old, this country has gone through so much in seven years and I have developed a different understanding of this piece of land. You probably have also spent the seven years with them, when you were in secondary school, or when you entered society, or when you were middle aged, or when you were married with kids, or when you grew old. Some friends who I had online debates with have now become experienced social activists. I hope that all of you can continue to defend social justice in your new positions.

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