Malaysia denies entry to critical journalist

New York, July 5, 2013–Malaysian immigration authorities should reverse their decision to deny entry Wednesday to a journalist critical of the provincial Sarawak government, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Clare Rewcastle Brown, who is based in the United Kingdom, flew to Kuching in southeast Malaysia but was served a “notice of refusal of entry” and later put on a flight to Singapore, according to news reports

Brown is the founder of Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak, two news outlets that have accused the local and national governments of environmental and political misconduct in the state of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo. Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud is closely aligned with the Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition that has ruled Malaysia for 56 years. In a video interview in Kuching’s airport, posted to YouTube by independent news website Malaysiakini, Brown said a powerful local political figure and a transnational corporation, neither of which she named, have sued her locally for defamation.

In April, the news portal Sarawak Report and the website for Radio Free Sarawak came under relentless denial-of-service (DOS) attack, staffers had told CPJ. A DOS attack prevents a website from functioning normally by overloading its host server with external communications requests. The sites were two of several news portals targeted prior to May’s general elections, which are still being contested in the courts and with street demonstrations. Barisan Nasional clung to power despite losing the popular vote.

“The action taken against Clare Brown and the attacks on the news organizations she runs are symptomatic of a broader problem in Malaysia,” CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz said. “Since independence in 1957, the country has never fully emerged as a democracy with a free media.”

In April 2011, cyberattacks against Sarawak Report and several other websites preceded important elections in Sarawak. Brown’s sites operate out of London to avoid Malaysian censorship. She has received anonymous death threats in the past, according to news reports.

  • For more data and analysis on Malaysia, visit CPJ’s Malaysia page here.