Brunei Times in surprise closedown

Reading Time: 3 minutes

brunei-times-headquartersBrunei Times, the second-largest daily newspaper by circulation in the small Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam behind Borneo Bulletin, published its final edition on November 7 after surprisingly announcing plans for its closure over the weekend.

The daily, which was launched in 2006, announced on its Sunday front page that it would cease publication the next day. On Monday, it said in a longer notice that the closure was due to “business issues, reporting and journalistic standards that should meet the mark set, and also issues relating to business sustainability.”

The announcement thanked the Brunei government “for bearing with the company” and for “having continued to extend the license to publish despite all the issues,” without detailing what issues that might have been.

bt-final-edition
Closing announcement on November 7

The statement added that the paper had “no longer sustainable resources to continue its media and publication operations and the company’s board of directors has agreed that the best course of action is to close down the paper,” calling the shutdown “sadly inevitable” and thanked its staff “for their dedication, zeal, enthusiasm and tremendous effort”. 

It is understood that 110 to 130 staff will be made redundant. Some reports even speak of 175 jobs lost.

The abrupt shutdown has triggered speculation on social media that Brunei Times had been ordered to close for publishing an article on October 26 about changes in visa fees imposed by the Saudi Arabian government for Brunei haj pilgrims for which it apologised afterwards.

In the article, the paper quoted an official of the Saudi embassy as saying the hike for the Brunei residents was the result of Saudi Arabia’s economic problems. Reportedly, the Saudi embassy complained to the Sultan of Brunei that the official quoted in the story was not authorised to speak to the media, so the paper should be closed down. The paragraphs in question have since been deleted in the online version.

bt-closure
Last edition on November 7

Brunei’s media are strictly controlled by the government, leaving little in the way of diverse viewpoints. Reporters Without Borders state that there is “virtually no criticism of the government” in the media. Liberal democracy watchdog Freedom House lists Brunei’s media as “not free”. Reporters and editors exercise self-censorship on political and religious matters. A press law provides prison terms of up to three years for reporting “false news.”

According to people familiar with the matter, the government had been upset with Brunei Times for a while, and the Saudi visa story finally broke the paper’s back. Struggling with a declining circulation and printing around 10,000 daily copies at the end – down from 15,000 in 2011 -, the paper has been running a deficit ever since it was launched, and without financial backing by government – with was obviously withdrawn – carrying on was unfeasible.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Brunei Times, the second-largest daily newspaper by circulation in the small Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam behind Borneo Bulletin, published its final edition on November 7 after surprisingly announcing plans for its closure over the weekend.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

brunei-times-headquartersBrunei Times, the second-largest daily newspaper by circulation in the small Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam behind Borneo Bulletin, published its final edition on November 7 after surprisingly announcing plans for its closure over the weekend.

The daily, which was launched in 2006, announced on its Sunday front page that it would cease publication the next day. On Monday, it said in a longer notice that the closure was due to “business issues, reporting and journalistic standards that should meet the mark set, and also issues relating to business sustainability.”

The announcement thanked the Brunei government “for bearing with the company” and for “having continued to extend the license to publish despite all the issues,” without detailing what issues that might have been.

bt-final-edition
Closing announcement on November 7

The statement added that the paper had “no longer sustainable resources to continue its media and publication operations and the company’s board of directors has agreed that the best course of action is to close down the paper,” calling the shutdown “sadly inevitable” and thanked its staff “for their dedication, zeal, enthusiasm and tremendous effort”. 

It is understood that 110 to 130 staff will be made redundant. Some reports even speak of 175 jobs lost.

The abrupt shutdown has triggered speculation on social media that Brunei Times had been ordered to close for publishing an article on October 26 about changes in visa fees imposed by the Saudi Arabian government for Brunei haj pilgrims for which it apologised afterwards.

In the article, the paper quoted an official of the Saudi embassy as saying the hike for the Brunei residents was the result of Saudi Arabia’s economic problems. Reportedly, the Saudi embassy complained to the Sultan of Brunei that the official quoted in the story was not authorised to speak to the media, so the paper should be closed down. The paragraphs in question have since been deleted in the online version.

bt-closure
Last edition on November 7

Brunei’s media are strictly controlled by the government, leaving little in the way of diverse viewpoints. Reporters Without Borders state that there is “virtually no criticism of the government” in the media. Liberal democracy watchdog Freedom House lists Brunei’s media as “not free”. Reporters and editors exercise self-censorship on political and religious matters. A press law provides prison terms of up to three years for reporting “false news.”

According to people familiar with the matter, the government had been upset with Brunei Times for a while, and the Saudi visa story finally broke the paper’s back. Struggling with a declining circulation and printing around 10,000 daily copies at the end – down from 15,000 in 2011 -, the paper has been running a deficit ever since it was launched, and without financial backing by government – with was obviously withdrawn – carrying on was unfeasible.

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