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NGO launches Freedom Fund 2.0 for Clare Rewcastle-Brown and two Malaysian publishers

Malaysian NGO launched Freedom Fund 2.0 to support Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown and two publishers. Last year, the trio was ordered by the court to pay nearly US$89,000 in legal costs in a defamation suit initiated by the Sultanah of Terengganu.



KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: A Malaysian NGO is relaunching the Freedom Fund, a revolving fund initially established in 2015 to provide financial assistance to individuals whose rights under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution have been infringed.

This includes those fined, jailed, sacked, or had their privileges withdrawn.

The NGO, ENGAGE, collaborated with press and freedom advocacy groups last Thursday (9 May) to launch Freedom Fund 2.0.

In a press release, ENGAGE noted that the primary purpose of the fund is to support British activist and Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown, as well as Gerakbudaya Enterprise and Vinlin Press.

They have been ordered to pay a total of RM300,000 (approximately US$63,468) in damages and RM120,000 (approximately US$25,387) in legal costs to the Sultanah of Terengganu.

This follows the Court of Appeal’s decision in December 2023, which overturned the High Court’s previous dismissal of the defamation suit in favor of Rewcastle-Brown and the two defendants.

Freedom Fund 2.0 nears target with strong public support

The Freedom Fund 2.0, launched last Thursday, is making significant progress towards its target of raising RM292,000 to support Ms Rewcastle Brown Rewcastle-Brown and the two publications.

As of Tuesday (14 May), five days after the launch, the fund has raised RM151,462.

Combined with the RM128,000 previously raised by Ms Rewcastle Brown in the UK, the total stands at RM279,462 or 66.5 per cent of the goal.

However, Ms Rewcastle Brown still needs another RM140,538 to cover the RM420,000 awarded to the Sultanah of Terengganu.

Although the case is currently under appeal to the Federal Court, ENGAGE said the respondents must be prepared to pay the full amount if the Federal Court upholds the Court of Appeal’s decision.

If the Federal Court overturns the decision and the funds are no longer needed for these respondents, the money will remain in the Freedom Fund 2.0 to assist others who meet the fund’s criteria.

‘RM10 to Say Thank You’

In a press statement, ENGAGE noted that it is heartening that 585 individuals responded to the “RM10 to say Thank You” campaign, with 407 people making contributions of RM50 or less.

“It shows that no amount is too small and everyone can do their part to show their solidarity with Clare and the two local businesses. ”

ENGAGE highlighted the gratitude many Malaysians feel towards Ms Rewcastle Brown, a British journalist based in the UK, who has shown unwavering commitment to exposing corruption in Malaysia long before the 1MDB scandal erupted.

The alleged defamation stemmed from a simple matter of mistaken identity in the first version of Ms Rewcastle Brown’s book, “The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Exposé,” where the Sultan’s sister was misidentified as the Sultanah as the person who introduced Jho Low to the Terengganu Investment Authority.

Although this error was corrected in subsequent versions, the legal action continued.

Additionally, the government initiated another criminal defamation action against Ms Rewcastle Brown.

This case was moved to Terengganu, the complainant’s home state, where the Magistrate court sentenced Ms Rewcastle Brown to two years in jail in her absence.

No notices, summons, or information were given to Ms Rewcastle Brown’s lawyers to prepare her defence or for her to appear, which is highly irregular and possibly illegal, said ENGAGE.

“Most Malaysians know that the exposé of 1MDB was a major reason that led to a regime change in GE14.”

“As such, on the 6th anniversary of GE14, we want to appeal to the Malaysian public to stand with Ms Rewcastle Brown, the two Malaysian small businesses that published and printed her book by donating “RM10 to Say Thank You” for their courage in exposing corruption in Malaysia. ”

“We are grateful for their sacrifice to our nation and we are appalled that they should still be punished for their noble deeds six years after GE14.”

ENGAGE encourages the public to continue supporting the campaign by informing friends and family. The NGO said they will provide regular updates on the status of the funds raised and any development related to Ms Rewcastle Brown’s case on our Facebook page.

“Your solidarity with Clare, Gerakbudaya and Vinlin Press means a lot to them and to all those who dare to speak truth to power and exposes the corrupt.”

ENGAGE advises donors to verify the campaign’s authenticity and bank details through Clare Rewcastle-Brown’s blog at Sarawak Report, ENGAGE’s Facebook page, or via a Google search for related news reports.

Contributions can be made in several ways:

Direct Bank Transfer:

    • Name: Engage Citizen Network PLT
    • Bank: Public Bank Berhad
    • Account Number: 323 866 9514
    • Reference: Clare

Online Donations: Via credit/debit cards, Grab, and FPX through the Sokong platform by Malaysiakini at Sokong

DuitNow QR Code: Available on ENGAGE’s Facebook page at ENGAGE Facebook

“The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expose,” unveiled on 8 September 2018, delves into the investigations of the 1MDB scandal.

On 21 November 2018, Sultanah Nur Zahirah initiated legal proceedings, alleging defamation by Rewcastle-Brown, Gerakbudaya Enterprise, and Vinlin Press in their book titled “The Sarawak Report – The Inside Story of 1MDB Exposé.”

She asserted that the statement implied her engagement in corruption and meddling in the Terengganu government’s administration.

On 27 September 2018, Sarawak Report published a statement on its website, saying it apologised if any misinterpretations in a passage of its book on the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal upset the Sultanah.

However, according to Sultanah’s lawyer, Datuk Mohd Haaziq Pillay Abdullah, when Sultanah saw the statement posted on the Sarawak Report, she did not consider it to be an apology.

In December last year, A three-judge panel from the Court of Appeal, including Justices Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail, Mohamed Zaini Mazlan, and Datuk Azhahari Kamal Ramli, ruled that Ms Rewcastle Brown, along with Gerakbudaya Enterprise publisher Chong Ton Sin and the printer (Vinlin Press) were jointly responsible for the defamation to Sultanah of Terengganu.

Justice Azhahari expressed the court’s perspective that, during the book’s publication, the statement aimed to subject the Sultanah to hatred or contempt.

He noted that Rewcastle-Brown admitted an honest mistake in her 2018 statement, clarifying that Sultanah didn’t introduce Jho Low to the Sultan; it was the Sultan’s sister. Moreover, no apology was made before the High Court suit was filed.

Justice Azhahari also said that the appellant, Sultanah of Terengganu, being the Sultan’s consort, is widely recognized, and the statement clearly impacted her image.

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