The Malaysian Insight, successor to now-defunct news portal The Malaysian Insider, has been challenged to reveal its financial sources by its former publisher.
"He (The Malaysian Insider's former editor Jahabar Sadiq) has said that his financial sources are private equity, businessmen and loans.
"For transparency and in the public interest, Jahabar should provide their names and not let the matter be shrouded in mystery," The Edge Media Group publisher Ho Kay Tat said in a comment published by Singapore's The Straits Times.
Jahabar had earlier reportedly said that it had taken him 10 months "to convince some private equity and businessmen to give a loan of sorts" to launch The Malaysian Insight, which will go online by the end of this month.
He had declined to identify these financial backers in the same report.
Ho also addressed Jahabar's remarks about "big media companies that say they share same values but close you down for commercial reasons on the first sight of trouble".
Ho disagreed with this assertion and pointed out that The Edge also ran afoul of the authorities over their exposes on 1MDB in their print publication, causing it to be suspended in July 2015 for three months.
"We challenged the suspension in court, won and resumed publishing after nine weeks. We did not run away.
"But the suspension lost us several million ringgit in revenue for our two profitable assets," he said.
During the nine weeks, they continued to pay the salaries of their staff in full, he said.
This depleted their cash to a level where they could not sustain the operations of The Malaysian Insider, which cost RM500,000 a month.
"This is a big sum of money for a small privately funded media group that is not backed by political parties or a large corporate organisation," he said.
The Malaysian Insider was closed down last year, shortly after the site was blocked by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) over an article on 1MDB.
The media group, which bought The Malaysian Insider in June 2014, had said then that it was due to financial constraints exacerbated by the block.
"It is still blocked today. We had lost RM13 million since we bought it in June 2014 from Jahabar and his co-founders.
"With no possibility of a turnaround, and with the site blocked, we had no choice but to cease its operations," Ho said.
Jahabar had announced The Malaysian Insight on March 16, as a replacement to The Malaysian Insider.
He had said the new portal will go online before the end of the month "as a free site before introducing a paywall sometime down the line".- Mkini