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









‘The Brunei Times’ suddenly closes after criticising Saudi Arabia’s Mecca visa price-hike

The unexpected announcement followed an article that suggested Saudi Arabia increased visa prices because of economic troubles


Photo: Courtesy of Rasidah HAB


A LEADING  newspaper has allegedly been ordered to close for linking the Saudi government’s latest visa price rises to its “economic problems”.

The Brunei Times, based in the tiny country, which borders Malaysia, unexpectedly announced its closure of all operations from Tuesday in a front-page editorial.

It followed an article published on 26 October, which reportedly suggested that economic problems in Saudi were the reason for a hike in the price of visas for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages to Mecca.

According to a journalist claiming to be an ex-Brunei Times reporter, it quoted an anonymous official from the Saudi embassy who was said to have been “unauthorised to speak” to the press.

The daily paper apologised for the article on its website on Friday but refused to comment on claims surrounding its mysterious shut-down.

The statement read: “The Brunei Times is ceasing media and publication operations with effect from 8 November, 2016.

It also thanked the Brunei government for “bearing with us” and “extending the licence” despite “issues” surrounding the paper.

The “board of directors” also thanked editorial, management and operational staff’s “dedication, zeal, enthusiasm and tremendous effort they have put into their work at all levels over the years”.

The 10-year-old paper has also shut its Twitter and Facebook accounts.

A spokesman for the publication, which said 110 people were employed there, referred a Reuters reporter to its statement when asked about the reason for its closure.

Brunei, which has a population of around 420,000, is home to predominantly Sunnis Muslims.

The Saudi government recently increased visa charges for anyone completing the Hajj to approximately £410, up from around £75.

Muslims are expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.

Economic troubles in Saudi Arabia have been well documented with oil prices falling as low as £21 a barrel in February.

The Independent

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









Staying united in face of adversity – A comment on series of ‘Anai-anai’ (termite) of the Brunei Sultanate

syariah not against ham

Dear Editor,

THE three part series of opinion “We united can fight for our country” by Pehin Orang Kaya Lela Raja Dato Seri Laila Jasa Haji Abdul Rahman Haji Abdul Karim (The Brunei Times, March 19-21, 2014) is truly a welcoming reminder to us all on the importance of staying united in the face of any trials and tribulations that besets a society let alone a country.

It showcased a well read and vast selection of scholarly thoughts and writings that are within the reach of the author. It is a writing that one can sense is from the heart but beautifully guided by absolute facts (verses from the Quran) and credible references. In short it is a writing that must be heeded by all whose love for Malay and Islam are deeply ingrained within the fabric of their being.

As a recent visitor to Brunei Darussalam, one cannot be denied to be in a state of awe, respect and great thankfulness on the clear and distinct stance that Brunei wants to announce to the world.

Brunei is proud to be an Islamic country whose ancestral lines are from the Malay heritage. I can sense that Brunei is also proud to showcase anything related to the strong link that its Malay heritage has with Islam.

Names of shops printed in Jawi, the closure of shops from 12 noon to 2pm on Fridays (upholding Allah’s commandments in Surah Jumaat, 62: 9-11), the enforcement of Syariah Laws and the move towards achieving Negara zikir are strong moves that are intentionally intended (in line with the first 40 Hadith collection by Imam Nawawi that remind us “verily all deeds are with their intentions”) to proclaim to the world that Brunei is proud to be associated with Islam.

However as with all actions that is intended to bring back Islam to its glory, Allah SWT has placed for man the enemies to whosoever strive in Allah SWT cause. The various stories of Prophets sent to convey the message of submission to Allah SWT as told to us in the Quran brings a clear and stark reminder that there is an enemy for each of the Prophets sent. Thus the presence of enemies can be regarded as sunnatullah (the ways of Allah SWT) in any move towards glorifying Islam. Enemies, in striving for Islam, are viewed as akin to mirrors. As mirrors their function is providing the check and balance to ensure that one is on the right path in striving for Islam.

In fact if no enemy is sent then that is the time that one who strives for Allah SWT cause should be worried and deeply troubled.

Once there is a clear step towards realigning back to Islamic roots, definitely the enemy is indeed nearer than a stone’s throw away.

Imam Al-Ghazali

Imam Al-Ghazali

The enemy comes in different form and shapes. There are five types according to Imam Al-Ghazali. Two are internal enemies while the other three are external. The chief to these enemies is Syaitan as repeatedly mentioned in the Quran that Syaitan is a real and clear enemy to the pious (example as can be found in Surah Faatir, 35 verse 6) while next to Syaitan is the other internal enemy, the nafs (desires). It is this nafs that can poison one’s mind and heart and thus turn a fellow human and acquaintance to be one of the external enemies. As to the external enemies there are the infidels (kafir), the munafiq (hypocrites) and those who are jealous with malicious and ill intent (hasad dengki).

Hence, referring back to the opinion “We united can fight for our country” is a timely reminder that in facing challenges to bring further the glory of the Malays with Islam enemies do come in various shapes and forms.

One plausible justification for the surfaces of enemies from within but has no tangible form and figure in the guise of pseudonyms is the result of being indoctrinated by the thoughts and ideas of the dominant development paradigm.

This dominant development paradigm is from an Islamic-exogenous paradigm (Muhammad Syukri Salleh, 2012). The capitalistic system that brings about a liberal secular ideology is destroying the identity of being Malay Muslim. It is feared with the destruction of this Malay-Islam roots, the barakah (an intangible in the realm of the unseen befitting a characteristics of Muslim who believe in the ghaib as stated in Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:2) will also be obliterated. The annihilation of Malay-Islam roots is actually in line with Rostow’s (1962) cultural block hypothesis that advocates for the eradication of tradition and culture as these are the stumbling blocks to development (read progress and modernisation).

Thus those indoctrinated and fascinated by physical achievements brought about by developed countries adopting this capitalistic system, could view Islamic-based roots such as Jawi and the Syariah as hindrances towards achieving success as defined by the capitalistic system.

So how can one fight the known but unseen enemy? As a start, be clear and stand firm of the development paradigm that one is adhering to.

An Islamic-based development paradigm based on an Islamic philosophical underpinning is definitely poles apart and at times antagonistic to the dominant development paradigm.

Thus a sure way to confront these unseen and unknown enemies is to start looking for friends that are of the same mind and heart. It is a call to stay and be united, for those of the like mind and heart (thus work as a Jema’ah).

For those who strongly believe in the sanctity anything that identifies the Malay-Islam roots for example Jawi and the Syariah. Treat minor disagreements minor and focus on the big picture – the sanctity and further strengthening of the Malay-Muslim identity.

The only true way to fight the enemy is to return to Allah SWT as Allah SWT has promised that Allah SWT will safeguard those who strive for his cause (Surah An-Nisa, 4:45). When there is unity and the unity is aimed at achieving the pleasures of Allah SWT than surely the unending barakah as reminded in Islamia on “Counting the Barakah of Syariah” (The Brunei Times, 21 March, 2014) will be sensed and felt. One indicator to sense and feel the receipt of barakah is aptly mentioned in Surah Saba’, 34:15 that brings forth the following meaning:

Indeed, it is for the people of Sabaa, a sign (which proves God’s kindness) found in their home, namely: Two gardens (broad more fertile), located to the right and to the left (their village). (And it is said unto them): Eat of the provision of your Lord and give thanks to Him (state you are) good state (peace and prosperity) and (God you are) God is forgiving.

Wallahu ‘alam.

Shereeza binte Mohamed Saniff
Centre for Islamic Development Management Studies (ISDEV), Universiti Sains Malaysia
Pulau Pinang, Malaysia