The 1st Malay newspaper was published in Singapore in 1876, seventy years later than the first English newspaper. There are reasons for the lack of newspapers published for the locals and in the Malay language during this period. Firstly, the poor economic status of the local, particularly Malay, community made it uneconomical for any commercially motivated publisher to start a paper in the Malay language. And secondly, formal education was still non-existent for most people, which meant that literate people were very small in number and therefore made for a constrained market.
The first Malay Newspaper(in Singapore)
It was not until 1876 that the first Malay weekly, Jawi Peranakan, was published in Singapore.
Malay journalism began with the Muslims of Indian descent who were born in Singapore. The first newspaper published in the Indian sub-continent was Hickey’s Bengal Gazette, first published in January 1780 in Calcutta. So Indian Muslim that come to Strait Settlement had acquired the skills and technical know how of publication. Jawi Peranakan was not Penang based, but it was led by Penang born journalist.
This group is known by the name of ‘Jawi Peranakan’. The Jawi Peranakan is referring to people who have mixed blood, with one parent from Malay root. Most of them are Indian Muslim with Malay wives. Their newspaper "Jawi Peranakan" was first published in 1876 under the guidance of Munshi Mohd. Said bin Dada Mohyiddin, who was Penang born. This newspaper carried news both within and outside the country and at the same time made efforts to encourage study among the people besides standardizing the Malay language which was in the process of undergoing changes.
The Jawi Peranakan and a few other Malay publications such as Al-Imam (1906-08), Utusan Melayu (1907-21), and Lembaga Melayu (1914-31) substantially helped to provide intellectual,political and religious leadership in the Malay community by highlighting issues regarding the development of the Malay community.
The early Malay newspaper were mainly using Jawi language. Their content mainly involved in the involvement in Malay right.After the war it was the issues on the independence from the British. Many newspaper are religion based newspaper.
Beginning from Jawi Peranakan, within thirty years later, no less than sixteen newspapers and magazines were published in Singapore and the Peninsula; "Jawi Peranakan" itself, which was published without interruption for the remarkable period of twenty years, they represent the first attempt of a section of the Malay-Muslim community to report and comment on the circumstances of their lives in a manner not wholly dictated by either the traditional past or alien-dominated present, though inevitably partaking of both.
In 1900, The newspapers has been proven as the arena for the conflict of ideas between the old and the young generation in the 1920’s; as a matter of fact, problems surrounding religious matters were not the only ones that became the focus of Malay writers and journalists in the early years of the 20th century. The development of culture, the apprehension as to the fate of the Malays, irritation over the increasing number of immigrants, mistrust towards the colonial policy, all these were signs and symptoms of awareness resulting from questions all around which formed the new values in Malay society.
The progressive ideas of the young generation in the 1920’s were the direct result of the exposure of notable figures to the symptoms of the reformation of Islam in the Middle East. Similarly too was the material development felt by the Malays that resulted from their exposure to the symptoms of reformation and modernization which swept on Malaya early in the 20 century.
Penang, being cultural centre for the three strait settlement state,was not left behind in publication and printed media. Until the 1941, there were record of 11 Malay newspaper published in Penang. The following newspapers are the early Malay newspaper in Penang:
Bintang Timur Penang(1900), Bahtera(1932),Bumiputra(1933-1934), Cahaya Pulau Pinang(1903-06), Dewasa(1932),Edaran Zaman(1925-26,1929-30),Lingkungan bulan(1900) ,Pemimpin Melayu(1934) , Sahabat(1939-40),Sandara(1928-31),Suara Melayu(1926-32), Warta negara(1946-1963)
But today, we did not see any Penang based Malay newspaper which are having good circulation like the English and Chinese newspaper. The Malay newspapers are mainly published in Klang Valley.
Chahaya Pulau Pinang
The newspaper was published by a Chinese Baba. Lim Seng Hooi was one of the founders of the Penang Chinese Chambers of Commerce in 1903, he served as committee member for more then 20 years, intermittently from 1903 to 1928. He managed the business of the Criterion Press that was established in 1883 by his late father Lim Hua Chiam or Lim Mah Chye JP and made it prosper. Criterion Press was the publisher of three early Penang newspapes of three languages. Strait Echo(English), Penang Sin Poe(Chinese), Chahaya Pulau Pinang(Malay).
In 1896 he launched a Chinese daily paper and the Penang Sin Poe(槟城新报)was published. The office of Penang Sin Poe was at 59, Beach Street(港仔口 Káng-á-khaú, between China Street and Chulia Street). Four years later (1899) he founded a Malay weekly, the Chahaya Pulau Pinang. These two journals were the only Chinese and Malay newspaper in Penang at that time in spite of reported prosperous years. To fulfill the need to see fairer play and to obtain justice for the people of Penang, a new daily under the name of Strait Echo was launched in 1903 by the Criterion Press Ltd. with Lim Seng Hooi as the Managing Director. The venture was an immediate success and the Strait Echo enjoyed a wide circulation.
Al-Ikhwan(published in 1928 Penang) was no less loud and clear in voicing feelings of uneasiness over the fate of the Malays.
Saudara (published in 1928 in Penang through the effort of Syed Sheikh al-Hadi, for the most part recorded current problems and news. For some time, "Saudara" led by its editor Mohd. Yunos bin Abdul Hamid became one of the most influential newspapers in Malaya and a forthright and uncompromising critic of the living conditions of the Malays.
A note to Press freedom history:
In 1961, a revived Utusan Melayu was entangled in a fight between its journalists and other workers, on one hand, and the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno), on the other, over the important issue of press freedom.
The newspaper workers, under the leadership of its former chief editor Said Zahari, championed editorial independence while Umno insisted that the newspaper, which was highly influential within the Malay community should give full support to the party. A 93-day strike ensued which ended with Umno, given its majority shareholding power, taking over the newspaper. Today, Utusan Melayu is said to be UMNO linked.
1. The picture of Jawi Peranakan newspaper can be seen in the http://www.malaysiadesignarchive.org/?p=828