Malaysiakini and the Power of Independent Media in Malaysia

JANET STEELE is Professor of Media and Public Affairs and International Affairs at George Washington University.

NUS Press (First published, 2023)
208 pages including Bibliography and Index


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Malaysiakini and the Power of Independent Media in Malaysia is an intimate portrait of the people and issues behind Malaysia’s only truly independent media outlet, based on more than 15 years of observation of newsroom practices. The author illustrates Malaysiakini’s particular mix of idealism in action, with attention to how “sensitive” issues such as race, religion, politics, and citizenship get worked out in practice in the newsroom. This attention to the inner workings of one of the most important media institutions in the region yields not only a deep newsroom ethnography, but a nuanced, rich history of modern Malaysia.

Malaysiakini was founded in 1999 by Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran, two young Malaysians who met as overseas students in Australia. One of the many online portals that sprung up in the wake of Reformasi, a movement sparked by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad’s 1998 firing of his deputy Anwar Ibrahim, there was no reason to think that Malaysiakini would be different from the other blogs and portals that covered the trial of the charismatic former deputy prime minister. Yet this would be a mistake, as Malaysiakini wanted to do something much more important than report on Reformasi: its founders intended to bring independent journalism to Malaysia in hopes of changing the country.

List of Figures


1. Origins
2. The Nineties
3. The Reformasi Generation
4. The Team
5. Independence
6. Citizenship
7. Race
8. Religion
9. Politics

Conclusion; A New Chapter?
Epilogue: GE15


Weight0.4 kg
Dimensions22.9 × 15.2 × 1.5 cm




Year Published


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