New look for Malaysia Today, look out for FreeMalaysiaToday site

Malaysia Today unveiled a spiffy and breezy new look for its web site on Saturday with a new logo, and resumed service at its original domain name.

It now has a much more commercial feel to it, in contrast to the old site’s homespun philosophy, which readers may miss.

The changes come just a few days before the launching of another news site Free Malaysia Today, a name that dates back to Reformasi days of a decade ago stemming from the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim from government and his many subsequent tribulations.

Not coincidentally, Anwar is embroiled yet again in another trial on a sex crime charge that many are willing to believe is a put-up job designed to thwart his attempts to demolish the Umno-Barisan Nasional grip on power.

The new Free Malaysia Today, I am told, is planned to be a general news site providing Malaysian news and commentary together with world news, lifestyle articles, and sports.

Mohsin Abdullah, former NTV7 news editor and contributor to MySinchew and Malaysian Insider, is the biggest name on its masthead, though the site has several veteran news media personalities in the background.

The site will launch at noon on Nov 9 (corrected – admin) and its backers have intentions of reviving the lost art of investigative journalism and providing a middle path between the traditional media and the existing alternative press.

For the moment, its prototype site contains nothing that will alarm any of the existing Internet newspapers like MalaysiaKini, Malaysian Insider, Malaysian Mirror, or the Nut Graph.

Until it comes out with something spectacular, Free Malaysia Today will have a tough time living up to the pioneering efforts of its short-lived predecessor, in the turbulent days of Reformasi, which also led to the birth of MalaysiaKini — 10 years old on Nov 28 — Malaysia’s pioneer in independent Internet journalism.

It was the Asian economic crisis of 1997-99, and the sacking and subsequent jailing of Anwar, that led to the boom in Internet usage among Malaysians, the spectacular growth of Internet news and commentary web sites and discussion groups, and the dramatic erosion of the credibility of the “mainstream” BN-owned press.

Raja Petra Kamarudin began the Free Anwar Campaign and shortly after in 1999 the FreeMalaysia web site was launched promising to provide “the sort of free speech which is next to impossible to find ANYWHERE in the traditional print and broadcast media”. Soon it unleashed a series of hard-hitting exposés on Malaysian government corruption and of the cronyism prevailing in the Mahathir administration, particularly the Mahathir-Daim Zainuddin nexus, explored in a series labelled the “Rogue’s Gallery”.