By Peter Thamel Malaysia’s biggest daily newspaper is under fire after it emerged it had paid a former employee more than $50,000 to cover its coverage of the Malaysian opposition.
The paper’s chairman, Wan Kiew Yee, and a former assistant general editor, T.K. Kuk, were convicted in a criminal trial last month of bribing a Malaysian opposition journalist, Mok Poh Chong, for his story on the death of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and the subsequent disappearance of a Malaysian jetliner, MH370.
Mr Yee was not present in court and was not sentenced to prison.
His wife, Wan, was sentenced to a five-year suspended jail term in June after pleading guilty to bribing Ms Chong, the court heard.
Mr Kuk was also fined a total of $50.4,000, the highest fine for a journalist in Malaysia.
He was also charged with money laundering and corruption.
The prosecution also accused Wan and his wife of conspiring with another member of their family to pay for their son to study abroad, and of conspiring to bribe a journalist to spread fake news on social media.
The Malaysian opposition and the opposition party are in the midst of a political crisis as a result of the deaths of MH370, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, and an Indian Airlines jet that went down on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 8.
The court heard that the newspaper paid Ms Chong a total $50m for her reporting on the case, and also paid a total amount of $1.6m for covering the trial of two senior ministers who were convicted of corruption.
Ms Chong, now 25, is an award-winning investigative journalist who reported extensively on corruption in the Malaysian state.
She reported extensively in 2015 on allegations that former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had ordered the detention and torture of journalists.
She also reported on corruption scandals in the country’s energy sector and the airline industry.
In her 2014 book “The Road to Glory”, she said she had travelled to Malaysia to investigate allegations that Mahathirs family had controlled an oil company.
In December 2014, Malaysian authorities arrested Mr Mahathiris son-in-law, Mohamed Ibrahim, who had been involved in the oil business, and two other former ministers and their associates for allegedly taking bribes.
The two ministers and Mr Mahatiris son in-law have denied the allegations.
Mr Mahatiri, who was detained along with Mr Ibrahim and two of their associates, has been charged with embezzlement, money laundering, and other charges.
Mr Ibrahim was acquitted of the embezzle charge in May.
A lawyer for Mr Mahakiri told the court that he had been charged because he was trying to protect Mr Mahattir, but was not aware of the charges against him.
The case has become a major test for the ruling Democratic Action Party (DPAP) as it tries to secure a second term in office after a two-decade rule that has seen the country remain in a state of deep political and social unrest.