Editor and journos quit FreeMalaysiaToday
Online newspaper Free Malaysia Today is losing its editors and up to 15 journalists as a result of internal management problems and a pending shake-up in the way the site is run and its future editorial direction.
Word is that the site is to be more Barisan Nasional-friendly, in a departure from its current position. This could not be confirmed — however someone close to the management strongly denied this would be the case and said The management position has always been to report the news and not to take up particular political agendas or individual causes.
Free Malaysia Today was set up four years ago, more or less a sister site to Raja Petra Kamaruddin’s Malaysia Today; it is widely believed to have been under the financial patronage of businessman John Soh Chee Wen, once an ally of Anwar Ibrahim.
The site had a shaky start until Soh’s right-hand man Nelson Fernandez, a former New Straits Times journalist turned ad man and businessman, brought in MalaysiaKini’s news editor K Kabilan as editor and his team of experienced former NST and Star journalists.
The site was among the few independent news sites, together with MalaysiaKini and the Malaysian Insider, but with leanings towards Pakatan Rakyat. Since then it has tried to broaden its appeal, to limited effect.
Kabilan left at the end of last week after building up the site over the past four years. He was not available for comment; it is not known as yet where he would be headed.
Three other editorial executives — the chief sub-editor, regional editor and news editor — are also believed to be handing in their resignations shortly.
Up to a dozen more journalists, most of them reporters, may follow suit, possibly leaving FMT a mere shell.
It is believed they will seek positions at other online news sites such as Malaysian Insider, FZ.com, the Rakyat Post or the Malay Mail. (Rakyat Post’s managing editor Nelson Fernandez [Ridhuan Abdullah] is a younger namesake to FMT’s chief but no relation.)
It was not immediately known what prompted their leaving. For several months there had been speculation about the site’s financial situation and its future direction, and about friction between company and editorial management.
In the next few days FMT’s chief executive Nelson Fernandez is expected to hold discussions on the fate of the site: to decide whether the site will continue, in what form, and how it will be run.
Canadian bank sues Nelson
• A link was emailed to this blog about a suit by the Royal Bank of Canada against Nelson Fernandez and two other businessman for a total of US$63mil involving shares in a stock market rout in October that erased USD6.9 billion from the market value of three commodity companies. Fernandez is alleged to owe the bank USD22mil.
However, it is believed this suit is incidental to any decision about FMT’s future as John Soh and Nelson are both involved in a wide variety of business ventures.