Influences of Mahathirism in Utusan Malaysia editorials on Mahathir’s policies during his premiership from 1981-2003

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Abdul Halim Taib
Hamedi Mohd Adnan
Mohamed Ismail Ahamad Shah


This study examined editorials in one of Malaysia's Malay newspapers, the Utusan Malaysia, from 1981 to 1987, during Mahathir's premiership. The study specifically examined the influence of Mahathirism on Utusan Malaysia's editorials on government policies. The theoretical framework of Reese's hierarchy of influences served as the foundation for this study. This qualitative study utilised retrospective in-depth interviews with key personnel of Utusan Malaysia  as its methodology to answer the research questions. This study found no compelling evidence of direct or overt influence of Mahathirism on the editorials. What the study discovered was the chief editor, Zainuddin Maidin (ZAM)'s enthusiasm for Mahathir's thinking and his conviction that this Prime Minister possessed the courage to carry out his promises of a modernised and prosperous Malaysia and a greater share of the economy for Malays. The editorials demonstrate that he shared Mahathir's concerns about how Malaysia should be developed and how the Malay agenda and increased economic representation for the Malay community should be accomplished. We find in the editorials, not verbatim echoes of Mahathir’s thoughts and ideas, but ZAM’s original thinking about Malaysian nationalism, the Malay agenda and the assertion of Malaysian sovereignty in the face of Western dominance. Many of these ideas are reflected in what is conveniently called Mahathirism. By personal choice ZAM became UMNO's (United Malays National Organization) official spokesman and the journalist, who through his own thinking and unique perspectives on government policies, emphasised Mahathir's political and economic objectives for Malaysia, as well as Mahathir's emphasis on the Malay agenda, as the intellectual basis for his pro-Mahathir editorials. Utusan editorials are primarily influenced by ZAM's thinking and his commitment to Mahathirism or aspects of it.


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