(From AFP)

A leading Malaysian news portal that was blocked by the government after it ran reports on a scandal linked to Prime Minister Najib Razak is shutting down after eight years, it announced Monday.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak speaking at ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur Nov 21
Najib Razak

The Malaysian Insider has been a key player in the growth of plucky online news sites that have rapidly gained a following over the past decade by reporting on official malfeasance and corruption, filling a void left by pro-government traditional media.

Last month, Malaysia’s government began blocking access to the site after it published a story on corruption allegations swirling around Najib.

The website’s owner, The Edge Media Group, said in a statement that it had been in negotiations to sell the loss-making portal but that talks broke down in the wake of the government block.

“We believe the recent problems TMI had with (the Malaysian government) had made it more difficult for a sale to be concluded,” it said, adding that it had no choice but to close the site.

The news will fuel further fears for democratic space and media freedom under Najib.

Najib, 62, has been under pressure for a year over allegations that billions of dollars were pilfered from a state fund he oversees, and for his own admitted acceptance of a mysterious $681 million sum.

As calls for his ouster mounted, Najib has purged critics from his government and taken other steps that have stalled investigations.

Concern over fate of journalists

Australia’s foreign minister on Monday expressed concern at Malaysia’s detention of two visiting Australian journalists who had tried to question Prime Minister Najib Razak about corruption allegations.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalist and camera operator were detained overnight Saturday after they approached Najib as he visited a mosque in Kuching on Borneo island.

They have since been released but remain barred from leaving Malaysia as they await possible charges, their lawyer said.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia’s high commissioner (ambassador) in Malaysia had been in contact with the pair, Four Corners reporter Linton Besser and camera operator Louie Eroglu.

“I’m always concerned when there are instances of a crackdown on freedom of speech — in democracies particularly,” Bishop said while visiting Fiji. Read More

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