SEARCH: The Journal of the South East Asia Research Centre for Communication and Humanities

, 7:2

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Gatekeeping in the Coverage of Interethnic Conflicts: An Analysis of Mainstream and Alternative Newspapers in Malaysia

  • Yang Lai FongAffiliated withTaylor’s University Email author 
  • , Sidin Ahmad IshakAffiliated withUniversiti Malaya


Ethnicity, religion and related issues have always proved to be a difficult topic for reporting in multicultural societies. This study examined the gatekeeping process undertaken by Malaysian newspapers in reporting interethnic conflicts. The gatekeeping theory was employed as the theoretical framework. Interviews with editors from the mainstream and alternative newspapers found that gatekeeping took place at the individual, routine, and organizational as well as institutional levels. Significantly, two newspapers owned by pro-government political parties – Utusan by UMNO and The Star by MCA – claimed that ownership had an impact on their gatekeeping decision. It was found that political reason was the primary external factor influencing the gatekeeping of the newspapers in their coverage of interethnic conflicts. This study indicates that journalists/editors shape a reality that reflects the political, economic and ideological boundaries within which they work. More importantly, gatekeeping was found to reflect a struggle between dominant social norms and efforts for change.


Gatekeeping interethnic conflicts vernacular newspapers alternative newspaper