On 7 November 1907, the Singapore Free Press published the first issue of Utusan Malayu, a Malay newspaper. The name of the newspaper, which was derived from the word utus (“messenger” or “ambassador”), could be translated as either “Malay Mercury” or “Malay Herald”.
The first issue comprised four pages – three in Jawi script and one in Romanised Malay. The newspaper aimed to provide the Malay community with an “intelligent and impartial view of the world’s news, and of the news of Malaya”. News articles consisted of the latest telegraphic world news, summarised translations from English newspapers of the Malay Peninsula, as well as extracts from government gazettes and reports.
The Utusan also published editorials on various topics ranging from education, rubber-planting and football to the latest developments in other countries. There were also frequent discussions in the editorials on the condition and reform of the Malay society, which attempted to “inculcate new values and a new way of thinking in the Malay community”.
At the time of its inception, the editors of the Utusan were Walter Makepeace, R. D. Davies and Mohamed Eunos bin Abdullah. Eunos, who was widely regarded as “the father of Malay journalism”, was the newspaper’s editor until 1909. Under his editorship, the newspaper focused on the Malay bangsa (“race”). In his editorials, Eunos identified the lack of a permanent definition of the Malay bangsa as an inherent problem in the Malay community. He therefore advocated the need to understand the psyche of the Malay bangsa, and to commit to that understanding. He also encouraged the Malay community to develop a sense of love and pride towards their bangsa.
The newspaper had four editors over the course of its history: Mohamed Eunos bin Abdullah (1907–1909), Abdul Hamid bin Miskin (1909–1914), Mohd Ismail bin Abdul Kadir (1914–1918) and Syed Sa’dullah Khan (1918–1921).
The Utusan was initially published three times a week: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. In 1915, the newspaper was converted into a daily to meet the demand for news of World War I. Three years later, the newspaper was sold to a group of Singapore Muslim businessmen. In 1921, the newspaper’s printers, Ribeiro Ltd.; publisher and proprietor, M. Nalpon; and editor, Syed Sa’dullah Khan, were sued by Raja Shariman and Che Tak, assistant commissioners of police of the Federated Malay States, for damages over an alleged libel caused by the contents of two letters published in the newspaper on 9 November 1920. At the time of the alleged libel, the newspaper’s circulation had decreased to below 280 copies. The newspaper subsequently ceased its operations in 1921.
1. Utusan Malayu. (1907, November 8). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. [Utusan Malayu (1907–1921) should not be confused with another Malay newspaper, Utusan Melayu, which was first published in 1939.]
2. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 8 Nov 1907, p. 5.
3. Page 9 Advertisements Column 2. (1908, May 20). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 8 Nov 1907, p. 5.
5. Utosan Malayu. (1907, November 9). Eastern Daily Mail and Straits Morning Advertiser, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Eastern Daily Mail and Straits Morning Advertiser, 9 Nov 1907, p. 3.
7. Milner, A. (2002). The invention of politics in colonial Malaya (p. 92). New York: Cambridge University Press. Call no.: RSEA 959.5 MIL.
8. Milner, 2002, p. 92.
9. Eastern Daily Mail and Straits Morning Advertiser, 9 Nov 1907, p. 3.
10. Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism (p. 159). Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF.
11. A. M. Iskandar Haji Ahmad. (1973). Persuratkhabaran Melayu, 1876–1968 (p. 7). Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. Call no.: Malay RSEA 079.595 ABD-[DIR].
12. Milner, 2002, p. 98.
13. Milner, 2002, p. 99.
14. Milner, 2002, p. 99.
15. Milner, 2002, p. 98.
16. Iskandar, 1973, p. 7.
17. Iskandar, 1973, p. 7.
18. Nik Ahmad bin Haji Nik Hassan. (1963, May). The Malay press. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. 36, no. 1 (201), 50. Retrieved October 2, 2014, from JSTOR.
19. Nik Ahmad, May 1963, p. 50.
20. ‘Utusan Malayu’ libel case. (1921, November 19). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. ‘Utusan Malayu’ libel case. (1921, December 7). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Nik Ahmad, May 1963, p. 50.
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.