RSF and NGO coalition call on Malaysian authorities to overturn conviction of UK journalist who reported on corruption

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and a coalition of journalists and NGOs have called on the Malaysian authorities to overturn the conviction in absentia of British investigative journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown, who was sentenced by a Malaysian court to two years in prison on an abusive charge of criminal defamation.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and a coalition of Malaysian journalists and NGOs led by the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), in an open letter published on 24 March 2024, called for acquittal of British investigative journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown, who was sentenced on 7 February by the Magistrates’ Court of Kuala Terengganu, a city located on the eastern coast of the Malay Peninsula, to two years in prison for  "defamation”.

The defamation case relates to a line in a investigative book published in 2018, in which Rewcastle Brown incorrectly said the wife of a local governor - it was actually his sister - had links to a businessman involved in a financial scandal. The journalist recognised her mistake and corrected it in a second edition. In February this year she learned she had been tried in absentia without being informed of the hearing and has since appealed the conviction. A case management hearing is expected on 7 May.

“It is unacceptable for a journalist to be tried without being given the opportunity to defend herself, and a two-year prison sentence for an error that she admitted and corrected is clearly disproportionate. We call on the Terengganu State High Court to correct this injustice by overturning Clare Rewcastle Brown’s conviction at her appeal trial.

Cédric Alviani
RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau Director

Rewcastle Brown, the editor-in-chief of online news site Sarawak Report, specialises in investigating corruption cases in Malaysia. Her book, The Inside Story of the 1MDB Exposé, addressed one of the biggest financial scandals in the country’s history, for which former president Najib Razak received a 12-year prison term, recently halved.

In early March, an RSF delegation met Malaysia’s Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil as well as media organisations and journalists. During the mission, the delegation also held a workshop to introduce the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI), an international standard that highlights best journalistic practices to restore public trust in the media.

Malaysia ranked 73rd out of 180 countries in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index, the highest among ASEAN countries.

107/ 180
Score : 52.07
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