KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 12 — Umno-owned daily Utusan Malaysia published a public apology on its website today after it ran a fake news story from satirical website World News Daily Report (WNDR) of a Catholic priest who converted to Islam.
The story ran by the Malay daily alleged that the Christian clergyman from Muslim-majority Java, Indonesia changed his religion after waking up from a 17-month long coma.
“Utusan apologises for any difficulties and confusion which resulted from the news based on that website,” the Malay-language paper published on its website.
The fake news story however has since spread, resulting in ridicule for Utusan from some astute online readers who pointed out that WNDR has repeatedly published hoaxes and fake news involving Malaysia.
WNDR describes itself as “an American Jewish Zionist newspaper based in Tel Aviv and dedicated on covering biblical archeology news and other mysteries around the Globe.”
But WNDR also publishes a disclaimer on its website stating that it is “a news and political satire web publication, which may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways.”
WNDR’s hoax claimed that an 87-year-old Spanish priest “Father Eduardo Vincenzo Maria Gomez” had converted to Islam after claiming “Allah spoke to him and showed him ‘the beauty of the heavens’.”
Last month, national carrier Malaysia Airlines urged authorities to block the website for publishing a satirical article purporting that one of the flag carrier’s planes made an emergency landing after flying over an Icelandic volcano.
In July, WNDR alleged that the Selangor crown prince had converted to Christianity and relinquished his royal rights.
Earlier in March, it claimed that a boy “raised by apes” had been discovered in Malaysia.
Pakatan Rakyat claimed last year that Utusan’s debt now stands at RM20 million as the paper saw its circulation dropped drastically, from 350,000 to 178,000 a day by December 2012.
It has also suffered for its heavily pro-Malay stance, losing several legal suits filed mostly by opposition Pakatan Rakyat politicians in recent years over various defamatory articles.