KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 – Datuk Johan Jaafar, the ex-editor-in-chief of Utusan Malaysia who was once identified as being close to former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, has been designated as the new media czar for the in-coming administration of Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The Malaysian Insider understands that Johan will be appointed a director of The New Straits Times Press Berhad (NSTP) and chairman of Media Prima Berhad.
Johan is expected to be appointed an executive director in NSTP, the publisher of the New Straits Times, Berita Harian and Harian Metro.
He will take over from Datuk Abdul Mutalib Mohamed Razak as chairman of Media Prima, which operates all of Malaysia’s private terresterial television stations – TV3, 8TV, TV9 and NTV7 – as well as two radion stations – Hot FM and Fly FM. The group also owns outdoor advertising giants Big Tree and UPD.
Johan is expected to set the tone for the Najib administration at NSTP and Media Prima.
Umno has traditionally exerted a strong influence in the direction of both companies, which are closely linked with the party’s corporate interests.
Johan’s appointments mark the first time a former head of Utusan Malaysia, which is owned by Umno, has been tapped to helm NSTP and Media Prima.
Johan is also a well-known figure in the local Malay literary and cultural scene.
He started his career in Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) before he was appointed editor-in-chief of Utusan Malaysia is 1992. He was also subsequently appointed a director.
Johan was seen as an outsider in Utusan while he was there, and the newspaper was criticised then by right-wing conservatives in Umno as being too high-brow and elitist.
In 1998, he resigned from the Malay media group a few months before Anwar was subsequently sacked as deputy prime minister by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Before his tenure in Utusan, Johan had been a rising star in DBP and helmed the agency’s magazine division.
He was also one of the few truly bi-lingual figures in DBP, being equally adept in Malay and English.
In the last few years, he has been writing a regular column in the New Straits Times where he has been known to expound moderate views on language, race and religion.