Who buried ‘The Brunei Times’?

Image result for the brunei times closure

This was back on July 1, 2010 when The Brunei Times introduced a compact version and I was so kiasu that I headed to The Brunei Times office to grab the first copy that entered the office. Photo courtesy of Rano360.com.

More bad news for press freedom in Southeast Asia.


THE Brunei Times
, the second-largest publication in Brunei’s small and heavily censored media landscape, has been shut down. The paper was issued an official order to “cease publication and operations on 7 November” just three days prior, leaving 110 employees jobless in face of an economy analysts have describedas “spluttering.

This is a significant loss to journalism in a nation ranked 155th in the world for press freedom, compared to Thailand’s ranking of 136, and Myanmar’s ranking of 143.


The last issue of The Brunei Times, which has been publishing since mid-2006, contained an announcement stating the closure was due to “business issues, reporting and journalistic standards that should meet the mark set, and also issues relating to business sustainability.”


However, unsatisfied Bruneians on social media are pointing to a different tale.

An ex-writer for The Brunei Times reported in Pakistani news that the real motive behind the shutdown was a complaint filed by the Saudi Embassy, after The Brunei Times published quotes from an unnamed source in a story published on 26 October. The article covered the increase in Hajj and Umra visa fees for Bruneian residents, with the unnamed embassy spokesperson describing the hike as a result of economic downturn from falling oil prices (click here to view a text archive of the now deleted article).

Although an apology was issued on 4 November, there are angry suggestions circulating on social media that the complaint provided the final incentive for government to shut down the publication, which often toed the line of Bruneian censorship standards — even though they may have annoyed authorities from time-to-time.

According to the report, the anonymous ex-employee source stated, “The government had been angry with the paper for quite sometime for its work but the Saudi Embassy story proved to be the final straw.”

Students and researchers are also mourning the loss of the newspaper, which provides an invaluable source of information on Brunei spanning the last ten years.

In a country where there is virtually no criticism of government and where voices are worn weary under the threat of harsh and repressive legislation, we may very well never know what, or more darkly who, buried The Brunei Times. In an age of wavering press freedom in Southeast Asia, this is deeply troubling, solemn news.

New Mandala

Wed, 9 November 2016










Brunei’s second-largest daily newspaper shuts down abruptly


Rozanna Latiff


BRUNEI’s second-largest daily newspaper, The Brunei Times, published its final edition on Monday, after abruptly announcing plans for closure over the weekend, triggering online speculation about the reason.

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 daily did not address posts on social media that it had been ordered to shut down for publishing an article on Oct. 26 about changes in visa fees imposed by the Saudi Arabian government for Brunei haj pilgrims.

The daily carried an apology for the article on its website on Friday.

A spokesman for The Brunei Times declined to comment on the posts and instead referred Reuters to Monday’s front page statement. He said the newspaper had 110 people on its staff.

The Prime Minister’s Department did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

“The Brunei Times… no longer has 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,” the paper’s notice said.


Monday, 7 November 2016









Western media and art of distorting narrative

gazAsif Ullah Khan

“ISRAEL under renewed Hamas attack”, says BBC while CNN headline is more dramatic “Rockets rain on southern Israel”. The front page of USA Today reads “Israel: rocket fired every ten minutes” and “How Hamas reached deeper into Israel”. The New York Times ran the headline “Israel vs Gaza: for now, it’s rockets vs interceptors”.

If this was not enough, doyen of broadcast journalism ABC News’ Diane Sawyer went overboard to paint Israel as the “victim”. She in her news programme says “We take you overseas now to rockets raining down on Israel today as Israel tried to shoot them out of the sky. Then she shows video footage of a Palestinian family gathering belongings in the smoking debris of a missile-hit home in Gaza. But Sawyer identifies it as “an Israeli family trying to salvage what they can.”

gazaSawyer then describes an image of a Palestinian woman surrounded by destroyed homes as “one woman standing speechless among the ruins,” with the implication that she is Israeli.

We must bear in mind that the above mentioned cases come not from right-wing Fox News but the mainstream news organisations which are not only known for their accuracy but also their balanced coverage, meaning showing both sides of the picture, in this case — the conflict.

gaza1The irony is that BBC, the epitome of fair and balanced journalism, has become a propaganda tool for Israel. Writing in The Guardian, Owen Jones says the macabre truth is that Israeli life is deemed by the western media to be worth more than a Palestinian life – this is the hierarchy of death at work.

Jones further says: But the media coverage hardly reflects the reality: a military superpower armed with F-15 fighter jets, AH-64 Apache helicopters, Delilah missiles, IAI Heron-1 drones and Jericho II missiles (and nuclear bombs, for that matter), versus what David Cameron describes as a “prison camp” firing almost entirely ineffective missiles. Twenty-seven Palestinians are reported to have died in Gaza – and, mercifully, no Israelis have been killed by Hamas rockets – and yet the BBC opts for the Orwellian “Israel under renewed Hamas attack”.

Jones goes on: And so it goes for the events surrounding the abduction and vile murder of three Israeli teenagers. What was not widely reported by the western media was that – in the raids that followed their disappearance – six Palestinians, including a child, were killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank. As Amnesty International put it, these were “blatant violations of international humanitarian and human rights law”.

gaza2Such concerted campaign against the Palestinians cannot be termed as an editorial oversight. As they say there is method in the madness. Israeli propagandists infiltrated into major news organisations have very sinisterly changed the narrative. Israel has become the “victim”. The Goliath of the Middle East armed with world’s most modern war machine has become David, defending itself against onslaught of rockets fired by Hamas.

The entire Western media is in sync as far as the narrative of the conflict is concerned. Israeli atrocities, its illegal expansion of settlements and denial of basic human rights to Palestinians do not find place in news headlines rather a new term has been introduced Hamas-run, Hamas-run hospital etc.

People are surprised how a journalist of Diane Sawyer’s calibre could commit such a silly mistake.

Sawyer is not new to the Middle East. She has extensively covered this region and even interviewed Yasser Arafat.

All this is the result of a powerfully sophisticated public relations strategy orchestrated by Israel and partially paid for by US tax dollars, which has even made inroads into BBC.

According to Redress Information & Analysis, an independent website dedicated to exposing injustice, disinformation and bigotry, Raffi Berg, the editor of the BBC News website’s Middle East section, has been sending his staff emails advising them to write more favourably about Israel. In one email, sent during Israel’s eight-day assault on Gaza in November 2012, which killed nearly 200 Palestinians, Berg asked BBC colleagues to word their stories in a way which does not blame or “put undue emphasis” on Israel for starting the prolonged attacks. Instead, he encouraged journalists to promote the Israeli government line that the “offensive” was “aimed at ending rocket fire from Gaza”.

The pro-Israeli media has not only distorted the reality but also changed the entire narrative of illegal occupation of the Palestinian land. The Israeli viewpoint is presented in such a way that it is divorced from the history of the conflict. Like the present situation, the main story is rockets fired by Hamas but the context and background of what Israel has done in Gaza is completely absent from the narrative and this is done with such finesse and subtlety that the aggressor and oppressor becomes the victim and real victims are portrayed as aggressors or attackers. Pictures of Palestinian children throwing stones at tanks are prominently shown to justify every killing by Israeli soldiers and bombing raids by F-16s. Words like Israeli war crimes, massacres, assaults, invasion, raids and offensives are not used while reporting Israeli aggression and any reference to previous Israeli killings or attacks is missing.

All Israeli bombings are referred to as a defensive measures or retaliation which can’t be any farther from the reality as it is the Palestinians who are resisting and taking defensive measures against the Israel aggression. No matter how many innocent civilians, including children, are killed, no matter how many homes are destroyed, the western media narrative remains pro-Israel, echoing the policies of their governments. One TV anchor has rightly called US journalists as stenographers for the US government.

The Brunei Times
Mon, 14 july 2014



Facebook: Is it halal or haram?

By Darul Aqsha

Facebook, right?

BLOGGERS and Facebook users in Indonesia, were upset after a May meeting of hundreds of ulama (Muslim scholars) from Java and Madura urged top religious authorities to issue fatwa, or edict, banning Facebook for Muslims.

They condemned the ulama, members of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU, Revival of Muslim Scholars), ” Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation,” through their blogs and Facebook’s statuses, called them as conservative and backward, blind of modern technology and need to be “educated”. “They should live in caves or in forests with monkeys,” one of Facebook users said.

In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, Facebook is the top-ranked site with an estimated 831,000 Facebook users, beating out even search engines Yahoo and Google.

Enda Nasution, a well-known Internet observer and active user of Facebook, dubbed as the Father of the Indonesian bloggers, considered the ulama, having no important things to do than issuing the edict, adding that the edict is just the ulama’s joke. “Don’t be half-hearted ways, why don’t they issue the same (banning) edict for the internet, mobile phone, or anything which can be used excessively,” he said as quoted by Sabili.

A May meeting held in Pesantren Putri Hidayatul Mubtadaat Lirboyo, Kediri, East Java, where the controversy begins, is part of Bahats al-Masa’il (Discussions of Cases) to discuss various issues in the community, based on fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) through the classical Islamic books known as Kitab Kuning.

The meeting has become NU’s ulama tradition for years. In the last meeting, current issues such as the use of modern gadgets and social networking media (cellular phone, 3G, chatting, Friendster, Facebook, and so on) became the hottest agenda in the forum.

The outcry subsided after the forum’s speaker Muchammad Nabil Haroen of the Pesantren Lirboyo held a press conference, clarifying that they were not after a ban and that he himself and some ulama also had Facebook accounts.

Haroen confirmed that the forum never issued edict banning Facebook because it is merely a new communication medium created by human beings. “We just banned its usage if it is used excessively and could drive lust,” he explained, citing an example on the usage of a knife, which could be positive or negative, depends on the user behind it.

According to Haroen, many criticisms were bias and excessive because the critics did not understand the forum’s decision completely.

According to Hatta Syamsuddin, a lecturer at an Islamic college in Surakarta, Central Java, Facebook as a medium has neutral status (halal). “It depends on the Facebook users who later change its ‘status’ to be haram or to keep in its neutrality (halal),” he said, commenting on the outcry.

From the fierce criticisms, we found that the critics, both from media and Facebook users, apparently had generalised the ulama.

Without any knowledge about the fiqh and the development of Islam in Indonesia, ” including the Islamic civilisation and empathy over the roles of ulama before, during, and after the country’s independence,” their criticisms on any fatwa will always be bias and too excessive.

Depending on how we see the context, we can always see things from the positive side as ulama did. Even Facebook spokeswoman Debbie Frost said, “We have seen many people and organisations use Facebook to advance a positive agenda.”

The Brunei Times
Tuesday, July 7, 2009