In what appears to be a sudden reprieve at the eleventh hour of Utusan Malaysia‘s print operations, Utusan Melayu Berhad announced that it will continue to publish the nation’s oldest Malay-language newspaper in print form.
The Utusan Group’s executive chairman Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir said at a townhall meeting with staff members on Tue evening (20 Aug) that while he acknowledges that the company is “facing problems”, he said that the group is striving to “improve its business”, particularly in the face of a global shift in reporting taking place in the form of social media.
Abdul Aziz added that the Utusan Group will also raise the prices of its dailies in an effort to sustain its operating costs.
The price of Utusan Malaysia will be raised from RM 1.50 to RM2.00 per copy, while the price of Kosmo! will be increased from RM1.00 to RM1.50 starting this Fri (20 Aug).
Malaysiakini reported on Tue evening (20 Aug) that the Utusan Group received a RM1.6 million “cash injection” from Umno.
Utusan branch chairman of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Taufek Abdul Razak also reportedly said that the cash injection has “enabled the publisher of Utusan Malaysia, Mingguan Malaysia, and Kosmo! to pay salary advances of up to RM2,000 to its staff” the same night.
Earlier, New Straits Times reported on Tue (20 Aug) that Utusan Malaysia will cease its print publication on Wed (21 Aug) until “an undisclosed date” after eight decades of its establishment.
Utusan‘s editorial team were informed in a special briefing that the decision was made due to a lack of funding to maintain its operations.
Kosmo! editor Lokman Othman was quoted as saying in an audio clip that Utusan’s last paper “will be published on the day after tomorrow (Wednesday)”, according to NST.
“On the front page, there will be a notice to inform readers that we will cease publication on Wednesday … This means that tomorrow (today) we will work for the Wednesday publication. After that, we don’t have to work,” Lokman said.
The announcement came just hours after around 100 disgruntled Utusan editorial staff members picketed outside the company’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on Mon (19 Aug) over their salaries, which have been reportedly delayed for as long as two months, and were subsequently unpaid since Jun.
“Even to come to work we have to borrow money”: Utusan staff express anguish over unpaid salaries
Utusan staff member Nik Mohd Hasmazi Hassan was quoted by Malay Mail as saying that many of the workers had to resort to borrowing money to even make it to work daily.
“Even to come to work we have to borrow money … [Yet] the papers are published every day right? That’s because of our work.
“Even without our salaries, we have never slacked off,” he lamented.
National Union of Journalists president Taufek Razak, who led the picket, told NST: “We were told that the company has no money to pay the workers or run the business”.
He added that Utusan‘s executive chairman Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir revealed that the company is mired in financial problems in a meeting between Utusan staff representatives and Human Resources Ministry personnel yesterday.
Utusan‘s management had reportedly offered the voluntary separation scheme to many workers of the company. However, the company has yet to pay its staff members their promised severance sum, according to Malay Mail.