Malaysia: Authorities continue criminal defamation case against Sarawak Report editor

On November 5, Malaysian authorities made a public appeal for information on Sarawak Report editor and founder Clare Rewcastle Brown after reviving a three-year-old criminal defamation case against her earlier this year. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the continued intimidation of Clare Rewcastle Brown and urge the Malaysian government to immediately drop all charges against her.

Founder and editor of the Sarawark Report, Clare Rewcastle Brown. Credit: Mohd Rasfan / AFP

The appeal for information relates to an arrest warrant issued against London-based Rewcastle Brown on September 23, for failing to attend proceedings in a defamation suit brought by the Sultanah of Terengganu, Sultanah Nur Zahirah regarding her book on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal. Rewcastle Brown faces a criminal defamation charge under section 500 of the Malaysian Penal Code, which carries a punishment of up to two years imprisonment and a fine. 

According to Rewcastle Brown, the plea for information is unnecessary as the police have contacted her directly in the past and are aware of her whereabouts. Rewcastle Brown advised authorities that she has no intentions of travelling to Malaysia, noting ‘criminal defamation’ is not a crime in the United Kingdom. 

According to Rewcastle Brown, her case was categorised as “no further action” in 2018. She described the revival of the case in March 2021 as a ‘politically motivated’ move and a “blatant abuse of power and influence within Malaysia”.  

Contesting the contents of a single paragraph in Rewcastle-Brown’s book, Sultanah Nur Zahirah is seeking RM100 million (USD 24,000) in damages from each defendant, including publishers GB Gerakbudaya Enterprise Sdn Bhd, Chong Ton Sin, and printer Vinlin Press Sdn Bhd. 

The IFJ said: “The criminal defamation case against Clare Rewcastle Brown is yet another arbitrary attempt by the Malaysian authorities to quash critical reportage and crucial investigative journalism. The IFJ calls for the immediate dissolution of all charges against Rewcastle-Brown and calls on the Malaysian government to cease using harassment and intimidation tactics towards journalist and whistle-blowers.” 

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram