Clare Rewcastle Brown, editor of a Malaysian news website, complains to the police about harassment by men she says are employed by Malay political party
A journalist who claims that she has been followed around London by “teams of stalkers” engaged in “illegal harassment” has made a complaint to the Metropolitan police.
Clare Rewcastle Brown, founder and editor of Sarawak Report, an investigative news website devoted to reporting on Malaysian politics, believes the stalkers are employed by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the ruling party in Malaysia led by its prime minister, Najib Razak.
The news comes ahead of controversy over this week’s visit to Malaysia by prime minister David Cameron at a time when Razak is embroiled in a corruption scandal that Rewcastle Brown’s website has been in the forefront of reporting.
Rewcastle Brown has called on Cameron to cancel his visit. In a separate item an article on Sarawak Report, she describes two men who, she claims, “took photographs of her in broad daylight in Hyde Park” while “other individuals have followed her car.”
Home minister Seri Ahmad Zahid Mamidi was reported on Friday as saying that Rewcastle Brown could be extradited from London to Kuala Lumpur on charges that her reporting had violated Malaysia’s sovereignty.
Rewcastle Brown, a British citizen who was born in Sarawak, is married to the younger brother of the former prime minister, Gordon Brown.
Her Sarawak Report site has regularly reported on the troubles faced by a debt-laden state investment, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (aka 1MDB), which is closely linked to Razak.
Reports on the topic by two Malaysia-based newspapers resulted in them being banned on Friday from publishing for three months by Razak’s government.
The suspensions were imposed on The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily. The group’s chief executive, Ho Kay Tat, announced that he would challenge the legality of the ban. Meanwhile, his group would continue to publish online.
“This is nothing more than a move to shut us down in order to shut us up,” Ho was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. He has also been subjected to a travel ban in company with two opposition politicians.
The CPJ pointed out that The Edge is only the latest news outlet to be harassed. The Wall Street Journal reported on 2 July that $700m of the 1MDB fund’s cash had ended up in Razak’s personal bank accounts.
A week later, Razak’s lawyers threatened to sue the newspaper and its publisher for defamation, although no action has yet been taken.
The Journal’s publisher, Dow Jones, says its articles “speak for themselves” and the paper stands by its reporting.
Earlier this year, Razak’s government cracked down hard on critical commentary about the trial and conviction of political opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges.
The political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, known as Zunar, now faces a possible 43 years in prison on multiple sedition charges for raising questions about judicial independence. His trial is scheduled to begin on 9 September.
But the clamp on media should be seen in the context of Malaysia’s brief, rich history of suspending newspapers, according to The Malaysian Insider website.
It says the suspension of the Edge titles “marks the government’s continued tradition of clamping down on print media, a practice which began nearly three decades ago.” It goes on to list scores of examples.