PETALING JAYA: The former group chief editor of the New Straits Times Press has admitted that mainstream dailies suffered declining readership during the political and economic crises of the late 1990s, after former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin blamed biased coverage against Anwar Ibrahim during the period for the start of the fall of Umno-linked media.
But A Kadir Jasin, who is now the prime minister’s media and communications adviser, said an improvement in the newspaper circulation was short-lived after Khairy “hijacked” the Abdullah Badawi administration.
“Unfortunately, after the victory in 2004, Mr Clean’s administration was hijacked by the ‘fourth-floor boys’, and Khairy Jamaluddin became Pak Lah’s son-in-law,” Kadir said in a Facebook response to Khairy, who had earlier named the former as among those who led the pro-Umno dailies two decades ago.
The “fourth-floor boys” is a phrase used by Khairy’s critics who said they had occupied the Prime Minister’s Department with Khairy as the de facto prime minister during Abdullah’s six-year administration.
Kadir and Khairy, the Rembau MP, have been trading barbs following the cessation of the pro-Umno Utusan Malaysia yesterday.
Kadir said the decline of Malaysian media took a turn for the worse during Abdullah’s era.
“If the media decline in 1998 was because of a specific case, the decline from 2003 until Barisan Nasional’s fall last year was due to the interference and excessive ‘revelations’ from Putrajaya,” he added.
He was referring to the 1998 crisis sparked by Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s sacking of Anwar, who was later jailed after being charged with sodomy and corruption.
Kadir however said he would have regarded Khairy as prime ministerial material if Umno was still in power.
“Unfortunately, Umno is no longer in power, and Khairy may no longer be acceptable as a PM candidate for the Umno-PAS coalition because he is too modern and seen as not Malay enough.
“Unless Khairy becomes more outspoken and strengthens his position, he could end up as ‘wasted talent’,” wrote Kadir.