Protect Utusan employees, Dong Zong urges Putrajaya

The front page of Utusan Malaysia today.

PETALING JAYA: Chinese education group Dong Zong, which was recently labelled “racist” by the prime minister, today urged Putrajaya to take proactive action to protect the welfare of Utusan Melayu Bhd employees in the wake of the daily’s financial woes.

Dong Zong, Malaysiakini reported, said it was concerned over the future of the troubled company’s two dailies, Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo!

It said the media played a vital role as the “fourth estate” where it served as a check-and-balance against the government. Media freedom, it added, must not be curtailed.

Dong Zong also said Utusan’s management had failed to abide by the terms of workers’ employment contracts with regards to its delay in paying salaries and compensation for its voluntary separation scheme (VSS).

This, it said, led to a loss of income.

“Such crass actions should be condemned. Workers’ rights and media freedom are inseparable; the quality of news can only be maintained if workers are well taken care of.

“The Utusan Melayu group needs to pay outstanding salaries and VSS compensation,” the news portal quoted the group as saying.

It also urged Utusan Melayu to make public the financial situation of the two dailies.

Dong Zong said it was also aware of Utusan Melayu’s contributions in the fight against colonialism and towards Malayan independence.

Dong Zong recently courted controversy over its opposition to the introduction of khat calligraphy to vernacular schools, claiming it was a medium to spread Islam.

This led to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad labelling them as racist.

A few days ago, it was reported that police will question the group’s chairman, Tan Tai Kim, over the group’s claim.

Yesterday, Utusan Melayu Bhd announced that its two flagship publications, Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo!, will continue to be published. However, their cover prices will go up.

Quashing speculation that the papers will cease publication because of financial woes, the company’s executive chairman, Abd Aziz Sheikh Fadzir, said Utusan Malaysia will be sold at RM2 a copy, up from RM1.50, while Kosmo! will also see a hike of 50 sen, to RM1.50.