HONG KONG — The Malaysian authorities have ordered two newspapers to suspend publishing for three months over their reporting on a financial scandal that has embroiled Prime Minister Najib Razak and other members of the country’s elite, the outlets’ parent company said Friday.
Print publication by The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily will be suspended beginning Monday by order of the Ministry of Home Affairs, according to the newspapers’ parent company, Edge Media Group.
Edge Media said the order was in response to coverage of an investigation into possible wrongdoing at 1Malaysia Development Berhad, also known as 1MDB, a heavily indebted, government-owned development fund.
“We don’t see how exposing the scam to cheat the people of Malaysia of billions of ringgit can be construed as being detrimental to public and national interest,” said Edge Media Group’s publisher and chief executive, Ho Kay Tat, according to an article posted on the group’s main website. “This is nothing more than a move to shut us down in order to shut us up.”
Mr. Ho said that the outlets would continue to publish online and that the company would fight the closure of the print editions in court. Malaysia has strict publishing laws that give the government the authority to close newspapers, which advocates of press freedom say puts undue restrictions on critical reporting.
Malaysian government officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Edge Media outlets have published a series of stories on the development fund, including a story on Monday alleging that 1MDB executives, the Saudi oil company PetroSaudi International and investors including Jho Low, a prominent financier, had conspired to defraud the country out of more than $1.8 billion.
The Wall Street Journal reported in early July that documents from the investigation showed nearly $700 million of 1MDB funds had been deposited into accounts said to be controlled by Mr. Najib, the prime minister, who heads the development fund’s board. Mr. Najib and 1MDB have denied wrongdoing, and the prime minister has called the allegations a smear orchestrated by his political opponents.
Edge Media ran into trouble with the authorities earlier this year. In March, Mr. Ho was arrested along with the chief executive and three editors of another Edge Media outlet, the website The Malaysian Insider, over an article about a proposal to allow strict enforcement of Islamic law.
Press freedom groups characterized that action against Edge Media as the latest in a series of troubling moves by the Malaysian government to intimidate critical publications.