Online media newspaper “Aisha Daily” shuts down in Macau, questions on freedom of media raised

Macau, unlike Hong Kong is an interesting experiment within the Chinese political landscape, which has since the late 1990s been reclaimed by China from Western nations in promise of civil liberties alongside China’s authoritarian regime.

Macau has largely been obedient to the Chinese diktats, unlike Hong Kong where pro-democracy protests have been raging regularly since the last few years. However, dissenting voices within Macau are now facing heat as independent online media houses are either shutting down or operating on borrowed time.

Aisha Daily, an independent critical media outlet stood out for 16 years within the sphere of pro-organized media. Found in November 2005, Aisha Daily has now ceased operations in Macau allegedly due to “unprecedented environmental changes and scarce resources”.

One of the founding members of Aisha Daily, Cui Zizhao along with its regular online readers expressed anguish over the sudden cessation of the newspaper, which was one of the lone voices that dared to speak out against the authorities in Macau. Aisha Daily thanked its readers for the overwhelming support it got over the years as it suspended operations in July last year.

However, Cui Zizhao, ex-vice president of the newspaper, criticized the move and disagreed with Aisha shutting down operations. He stated that his Facebook account had 12500 followers and could use his influence to find a cautious person to take over the newspaper, thus seriously questioning the suspension.

Aisha Daily was a key driver behind exposing Macau’s political and social events by employing diverse reporting methods and tools such as jokes & satires. The newspaper played an enabling role by making possible important social changes in the past, such as getting the government to withdraw the supposedly savage draft law “Defense System for Chief Executive Officers and Chief Assigned, Current and Outgoing Officials” in 2010.

The newspaper shared a post on its Facebook page stating “For a long time, Aisha has fulfilled its duties, adhered to the value of freedom of the press, and presented the diverse faces of Macau. Thanks to the readers for their wrong love and luck. Thank you again. Everyone has always supported and corrected me, goodbye.”

Aisha Daily first published in 2005 in the 31st issue of “New Macau” of the New Macau Societyhas been published independently since November 2010. In December 2012, it was formally registered with the Macao Information Bureau under the name of “Love Media”, and a news website was opened in March 2013, but it has not been updated since September 2019.

The newspaper played an important role in shaping critical opinion in Macau. Though, both Hong Kong and Macau are Special Administrative Regions under China’s one country, two systems policy, Honk Kong has been at the forefront in driving pro-democracy sentiment against China, while Macau has been praised by the Chinese government for its patriotism for keeping peace & unity.

Agnes Lam, director of the University of Macau’s Centre for Macau Studies echoed with this narrative when in 2019 she told the BBC that “We do not have any kind of open arguments with China about one country, two systems. We understand the boundaries quite well,”.[2] This is in stark contrast to how Hong Kong has behaved in the last two years and is outrightly rejecting Chinese advances.

Activists and politicians in Macau unlike Hong Kong are mostly pro-China and openly state that they live comfortable lives in Macau and that there is no desire to fight for autonomy, freedom and rights. However, small groups in Macau have at certain instances attempted to express dissent and lend their support to the Honk Kong protests. In August 2019, the Macau government locked down a square to prevent protesters from demonstrating and in the next month, a high court in Macau rejected an appeal to allow a demonstration in support of the protests to take place.

The shutdown of Aisha Daily is a step backwards in giving expression to voices against Macau’s tacit support of Chinese authoritarianism. For now, Macau is not an issue for China.

“Macau online media “Aisha Daily” ceases operations tomorrow, referring to environmental changes and scarcity of resources”.