The Rise of the Fifth Estate: The Pattern of Online Media in Malaysian Society

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The Rise of the Fifth Estate: The Pattern of Online Media in Malaysian Society


Su’ad Nabila Binti. Mohd Sharfuddin


Media in Malaysia started as early as 1806 when the first newspaper, Prince of Wales Island Gazette (PWIG) was published in Penang. The development of media industry continued until the New Economic Policy (NEP) that was embarked in 1970 and privatization policy which took place in 1980s. Since then, Malaysia media industry started to grow quantitatively from newspaper, radio, television then internet. The internet age in Malaysia begin in 1992 when the Malaysian Institute of Microelectronic System (MIMOS) launched JARING (Joint Advanced Research Integrated Networking) and online media started in 1995 by The Star launched the first online version of the newspaper which Malaysian use as the alternative medium for them to source for updated news and information besides the mainstream media. With the advancement of technology in today’s world, delivering and receiving news via online media can be done anytime anywhere within a second. Online media do provides more freedom to the media in terms of reporting and delivering news to the public. However, with the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) being create as a guideline, it somehow limit the freedom that can be practice in online media journalism. Online media is growing in a very fast pace that could take over the main role of mainstream media in the future. This journal explores the pattern of the online media development, current scenario and its future trends in Malaysia.


The rise of the fifth estate in Malaysia has caused the development of online media as the new medium in communication. The rapid growth of online media in Malaysia has proof that internet medium is being utilized extensively by Malaysian media as well as the public to share information and communicate with the world without boundaries. This scenario also attracts the foreign investment in Malaysian information technology via the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) that guaranteed of no censorship of the internet. Although it stated that internet is a medium that would give freedom to the media, with the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) being on board, it somehow limit the freedom that media supposed to have. The Act stated that:

…the Communications and Multimedia Act for the broadcasting industry and the Internet, which invariably empower the ministers concerned to determine who can or cannot own and run the mainstream press and broadcasting stations (Dr K Anuar, Mustafa 2007).

There are few website that being banned from viewership in Malaysia even though MSC clearly stated that there should not be any censorship on the Internet under its Multimedia Bill of Guarantees 1997. Websites that has been banned from the Malaysian viewership is including Pirate Bay. Pirate Bay is a web downloader host that allows downloading pirated files including movies, music and others. With the banned of the website, there were thousands of people protests the action by the Multimedia Commission. “The protest could be seen on Facebook as well, with over 6,500 people posting messages against the decision” (CBR 2011).

The beginning of online media in Malaysia

The readership of print newspaper has consistently decline from year to year with the growth of online media. This situation has urged the publishers to venture in the online arena. They would not only concentrate on the print medium, but online newspaper would also be the focus to published news and story. With online media, publishers not only compete among other local online media, the competition is also expanding worldwide. This is due to the Internet access from all over the world. As mention in the Malaysian Journal of Media Studies:

The Internet offers many publishing capabilities which include delivering up-to-date information, offering...
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