Launched in November 1999, Malaysiakini is one of the earliest online independent media portals in Asia, delivering news and opinion in English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil.

Introduction to the Citizen Journalism project initiated by Malaysiakini by Shufiyan Shukur

What is it?

Malaysiakini is the top online news portal for Malaysians and has inspired media activists across Asia. Since 2012 it has attracted about 2 million unique visits per day and over 300,000 unique readers.

The recipient of various local and global media awards, Malaysiakini has grown to encompass many sites, including Kinibooks for book publishing and sales, FeedGeorge for geo-tagged news and information, and for citizen journalism sharing and training in Malaysia.

Adhering to high standards of editorial independence, Malaysiakini opens up new channels of information from news reports to videos, from editorials to cartoons.

Its angle often differs from mainstream media, which are usually owned by state authorities or pro-government corporations. Hence, Malaysiakini contributes to a diverse media ecology in the country.

How does it work?

Malaysiakini operates on the basis of  "fast, accurate and independent news, and well-informed, diverse views." Apart from professional news reporting and commentary, it integrates citizen participation in its daily operations.

The Letters section has spurred heated discussion among readers with diverse religious and ideological backgrounds, creating "an open and well-informed arena of public debate unseen in Malaysia since the 1960s."

Topics on the site are not confined to the mainstream media agenda and cover controversial and even taboo subjects, such as the position of migrant workers, AIDS, Islam, and racial quota systems.

In order to remain independent, Malaysiakini avoids financial links to political parties and corporations. Instead, it relies on a mixed model of subscription fees, online advertising, and support from foundations.

The total revenue supports more than 70 editorial, technology, and business staff, united by a shared interest in independent media, social justice and democracy.

Why does it succeed?

Adhering to high standards of journalistic professionalism, Malaysiakini endeavors to lower the threshold for user participation, welcoming people from all social strata to voice their opinions.

When Malaysiakini was founded in 1999, the country was experiencing a major social movement in support of Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader in Malaysia. This was the first time Internet had been used in Asia for citizen mobilization and large-scale political protests. This created special momentum for the initial growth and further consolidation of Malaysiakini.

Since then it has reacted quickly to new technologies and media trends, redesigning its interface for various devices, opening up new social media platforms, and creating multi-media content for dissemination. As a result, it has become influential among young people savvy with new media.

The mixed revenue model protects journalistic independence. Stable financial wellbeing based on a diversity of sources allows Malaysiakini to further emphasize high-quality content.

Why did we select it?

For more than a decade, Malaysiakini has served as an excellent example of independent media in Asia and a role model for media activists throughout the region.

Issues of nationalism and the politics of ethnicity have long complicated Malaysian politics. Against this backdrop, Malaysiakini plays a uniquely constructive role by shedding light on local politics from global and comparative perspectives.

Its rich offering of multi-language content remains rare among independent media organizations and enables Malaysiakini to expand its influence both locally and globally.

Malaysiakini emphasizes user participation and expands the scope of public discussion to previously taboo topics. It breaks the silence on various controversial issues, allowing citizens with different positions to confront dilemmas in contemporary Malaysian society.

Last but not least, the revenue model of Malaysiakini, though no longer the most creative, has proven sustainable and represents an important point of reference for independent media organizations around the world.