Monday, September 24, 2012

Malaysiakini For What It's Worth

More intriguing reports on Malaysiakini when "Veteran newsman accuses Malaysiakini of being insincere"

Selected excerpts from the report,
"Veteran journalist Y.L. Chong has challenged Malaysia­kini to reveal its annual financial report.

He said that while the portal operators claim to promote transparency, accountability and media independence, they neither announced the value of shares nor declared dividends.

Chong questioned if Malaysiakini revealed its annual financial statements to its staff.

“When I was serving as news editor, I was verbally told during top management meetings that I am also a shareholder"
Response from Malaysiakini CEO Premesh Chan­dran,
"Premesh said Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd owned Malaysiakini and the company files its annual returns yearly with CCM (Companies Commission of Mala­ysia).

“This includes all details of shareholders. The par value of the shares is RM1,’’ he said, adding that all staff who owned shares had been issued share certificates.

However, he said, they had not issued any dividends to shareholders."
Is veteran journalist, Y L Chong a shareholder of Malaysiakini? Premesh has stated that all staff who owned shares had been issued share certificates. But, if Chong had received the share certificate he would not have made the remark. Premesh did not, however, refute Chong's claim that he was informed by the top management that he was a shareholder. A case of lost in intranslation or post perhaps.

Y L Chong had challenged Malaysiakini to reveal it's annual financial report. Even though it is unclear whether Chong is a shareholder of Malaysiakini or not, we can arrive at some assumptions. If Chong is not a shareholder, Malaysiakini is not obliged to furnish Chong with the financial reports. If Chong is a Malaysiakini shareholder, Premesh has not refuted Chong's claim, and did not receive any annual reports, Malaysiakini may be guilty of two offences. See Section 143 and Section 170 of the Companies Act.

Notwithstanding the above, Premesh did not respond to Chong's challenge to reveal it's annual financial reports.

It is not unusual for private limited companies in Malaysia not to declare dividends when the directors are substantial owners of shares in the company. These directors are able to receive large remuneration, salaries and other benefits, legally within the confines of what is permitted by law, more than what a cash dividend may provide.

However, when a business is incorporated under a company limited by liability, shareholders become partners of the company by their investment and expect a return of their investment, usually by way of cash dividends. Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF) being a substantial shareholder with a 29.1% stake is not getting any returns on it's investments. So, holding on to the stake can mean that MDLF is confident of future returns or receiving benefits as above. That is, if MDLF is represented in mkini dotcom sdn bhd board of directors.

Also, dividends are declared when companies profit and subject to it's cash reserves.

Malaysiakini is a web portal owned and administered by mkini dotcom sdn bhd, a business entity.

It is definitely NOT an NGO.

Premesh said that Malaysiakini is happy to work with international foundations on interesting projects to promote press freedom. Premesh said this in an admission of grants received which created some controversy. Grants, for various projects promoting press freedom and NOT funds to finance the company, mkini dotcom sdn bhd.

To clear all doubts as to it's tranparency, credibility, impartiality and of hidden agendas, Premesh should rise to Chong's challenge to furnish a detailed financial account of the company.

Failing to do so will only serve to confirm various allegations levelled at Malaysiakini, like those of Y L Chong, for what it's worth.

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