Why some people hate journalists

July 4, 2014

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Why some people hate journalists

by Eric Loo@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | Soon after last week’s shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, numerous trolls ‘celebrated’ the targeted murder of the four journalists and a staffer. One troll declared: “Dead journalists can’t spread leftist propaganda.”

Since Donald Trump was elected President in November 2016, attacks on the ‘fake news media’ are becoming more common with right-wing media platforms emerging bolder and stronger.

Trump’s anti-journalist rhetoric is not entirely blameless in riling predatory attacks on journalists by nut heads such as the shooter at the Capital Gazette whose unresolved grievance with the paper escalated into him murdering an editor and three other journalists on June 28.

Trump’s Nixonian loathing of the American media has effectively created echo chambers for the white supremacist agenda, the most recent being Milo Yiannopoulos’s red flagging to “vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight”.

Rightist contempt for the liberal press has degenerated to such a state that the New York Police Department felt it necessary to deploy armed police to news organisations across Manhattan.

It is unthinkable that journalists need police protection in a democracy that gave us Watergate, Walter Cronkite, the Pulitzer and Edward R Murrow who famously said: “We cannot make good news out of bad practice.”

Even as we look to the US as the beacon of press freedom, bad media practices are being mainstreamed, notably at Fox News and Breitbart News Network. The partisan media exchange is empowering hardline conservative attack machines in the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

The political left also has its share of anti-Trump media platforms and late night TV shows in the Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert genre.

The polarised American portrayal of the Trump Presidency – which has led to Trump supporters publicly hating the liberal media – reminds me of my short journalism lecturing stint in Alabama many years ago.

My brief was to expose the American students to a more “international perspective” of journalism practices and cultures. The final year students, unsurprisingly, said the media were blatantly biased (such as Fox News), that journalists generally lacked integrity, that the news was overly negative, sensational and obsessed with celebrity trivia.

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That cynical judgment on the media is not exclusive to the US. Journalists I had worked with at training workshops in developing countries cited similar gripes.

Which underlines my point that knowing what is bad and lacking in professional journalism does not necessarily motivate reporters to do something concrete to fix it for various reasons.

As a senior Malaysian journalist said: “When you have unqualified editors running the newsroom, our hands are tied.”

Personal costs

Yes, editors ought to lead, inspire and exemplify in their editorials and in-house policies what good journalism practically means. Good journalism goes beyond a reporter’s ability to ask questions and string sentences into a readable news story.

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Good practices are forged in the newsroom by fair-minded journalists whose primary obligation is to their readers, rather than to those in power; journalists who know that they should not become part of the story but recognise that they could be caught up in issues that conflict with their core values.

The journalist’s task, therefore, is to recognise his blind spots and preconceptions that influence his judgment of what’s right and wrong, of what’s fair and unfair.

Good journalists are known by their ability to weigh the evidence to illuminate the truth of the matter – all these are based on the trust that journalists place on their sources to provide the information that can be checked and verified for its contextual and factual accuracy.

Journalists, though, seldom work in isolation. They work with their sources in uncovering the truth.

In authoritarian states, journalists uncovering the truth come with personal costs. At this time of writing, two Reuters journalists are still in detention in Myanmar for their investigation of military brutality against the Rohingyas in Rakhine State.


In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has warned journalists critical of his administration that they “are not exempted from assassination”.

Further away in the Czech Republic, which I visit occasionally, the rightist President Milos Zeman was reported to have turned up at a press conference with a fake Kalashnikov inscribed with the ominous words “for journalists”.

And in Egypt, Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein has been detained since December 2016 for allegedly “disseminating false news and receiving monetary funds from foreign authorities in order to defame the state’s reputation”.

You can read details of ongoing threats against journalists here.

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Dan Rather–The Icon  of Journalism of the Edward R. Murrow,Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley Mold

Renowned American journalist Dan Rather (photo above) had sounded out to journalists in the US to “stay steady… relentless and remain aggressive” against Trump’s persistent attack on the media.

“That’s the proper role of the press… to be part of the system of checks and balances, to ask questions, keep on asking the tough questions, do deep investigative reporting. I think the public (including the people who voted for Trump) understand that that’s a vital role,” Rather said.

What’s what our journalists ought to do with the nascent freedom to report and probe since May 9. Journalists should keep on asking the tough questions that cut through the political spin and to closely watch that real reforms, as promised to the people in the Pakatan Harapan campaign manifesto, are delivered beyond the 100 days.

Sycophantic “bodek” journalism that had sustained the BN kakistocrats for decades certainly qualifies the mainstream media as the “enemy of the Malaysian people”. This must now end.

ERIC LOO is Senior Fellow (Journalism) at the School of the Arts, English & Media, Faculty of Law Humanities & Arts, University of Wollongong, Australia. He is also the founding editor of Asia Pacific Media Educator.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.


Top 10 Malaysian Political Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2018

Malaysia’s Top 10 Political Bloggers

Top 10 Malaysian Political Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2018

Malaysian Political Blogs List.

The Best Malaysian Political Blogs from thousands of Malaysian Political blogs on the web using search and social metrics. Subscribe to these websites because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with frequent updates and high-quality information.

These blogs are ranked based on following criteria

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

Best 10 Malaysian Political Bloggers

CONGRATULATIONS to every blogger that has made this Top Malaysian Political Blogs list! This is the most comprehensive list of best Malaysian Political blogs on the internet and I’m honoured to have you as part of this! I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world.

Malaysian Political Blogs

1. Malaysians Must Know the TRUTH

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Kota KInabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, About Blog I am Mohd. Kamal bin Abdullah, who resides in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. I hold a post-graduate law degree from the United Kingdom. I blog to tell MALAYSIANS THE TRUTH.
Frequency about 168 posts per week.
Since June 2010
Website malaysiansmustknowthetruth.b..
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers n/a. View Latest Posts ▸


2. Din Merican: the Malaysian DJ Blogger » Politics

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Kuala Lumpur Malaysia About Blog Hi, my name is Din Merican. I am originally from Alor Setar, Kedah Darul Aman, Malaysia. I like to use this opportunity to remind readers and commentators that this is a serious public affairs blog. Read all the latest political happennings on my blog
Frequency about 15 posts per week.
Website dinmerican.wordpress.com/cat..
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers n/a. View Latest Posts ▸

3. OutSyed The Box

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia About Blog Professionally in descending historical order a Blogger, Advisory Panel – Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission, businessman, property developer, author (three books todate), company director, newspaper columnist, NEAC economic consultant and banker. Also less erratic TV appearances and political analyst. My main interest is Malaysian peoples’ scientific, industrial, economic and social advancement. Everything else is disposable.
Frequency about 21 posts per week.
Website syedsoutsidethebox.blogspot.com
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers n/a. View Latest Posts ▸

4. Rebuilding Malaysia

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Kuala Lumpur Malaysia About Blog Welcome to mariammokhtar.com. Like you, I am an ordinary member of the Malaysian rakyat and I am concerned about many disturbing social, economic and political developments in Malaysia. UMNO-Baru politicians use meaningless, slogans which are created by public relations companies and paid for by the taxpayer. This site hopes to unmask them and expose them for what they really are.
Frequency about 4 posts per week.
Since Apr 2014
Website mariammokhtar.com
Facebook fans 4,852. Twitter followers 233. View Latest Posts ▸

5. Lim Kit Siang

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 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia About Blog First elected Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka in 1969, Lim Kit Siang is one of the most senior members of the august house.
Frequency about 6 posts per week.
Website blog.limkitsiang.com
Facebook fans 371,388. Twitter followers 368,671. View Latest Posts ▸

6. rocky’s bru

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Puchong, Malaysia About Blog Rocky’s Bru is Malaysian journalist Ahiruddin Bin Attan, who advises the mole.my and any blogger in need of free counsel
Frequency about 3 posts per week.
Since May 2006
Website rockybru.com.my
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers 17,024. View Latest Posts ▸

7. Malaysia Flip Flop

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia About Blog A Homemaker with a voice. Suffered too long and am dismay at the level of corruption and flip flop laws in Malaysia and arrogant and greedy politicians.
Frequency about 3 posts per week.
Since Apr 2008
Website malaysiaflipflop.blogspot.com
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers n/a. View Latest Posts ▸

8. Malaysia Chronicle » Politics

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia About Blog Malaysia Chronicle was started on June 1, 2010, by a veteran journalist. The team of one has since expanded to include other seasoned and well-known editors, writers and reporters. Malaysia Chronicle focuses on Politics, with Business news also a core feature since the pulse of a nation is often its economy.
Frequency about 168 posts per week.
Website malaysia-chronicle.com/?cat=2
Facebook fans 30,037. Twitter followers 25,806. View Latest Posts ▸

9. CILISOS – Current Issues Tambah Pedas! » Politics

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia About Blog Here at CILISOS, we believe that the only way to consume information is with a serious dose of flavour. Our aim is to make mundane things like news, current events and politics entertaining and informative in equal measure
Frequency about 3 posts per week.
Since Mar 2014
Website cilisos.my/category/politics
Facebook fans 66,552. Twitter followers 1,772. View Latest Posts ▸

10. The Malaysian Insight

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Kuala Lumpur City About Blog The Malaysian Insight provides an unvarnished insight into Malaysia, its politics, economy, personalities and issues of the day, and also issues sidelined by the headlines of the day.
Frequency about 168 posts per week.
Website themalaysianinsight.com
Facebook fans 38,344. Twitter followers 11,448. View Latest Posts ▸


1MDB case must be watertight, says Malaysia’s Mahathir

June 21, 2018

1MDB case must be watertight, says Malaysia’s Mahathir 


As prime suspect – and defeated Prime Minister – Najib Razak holidays in Langkawi, Malaysia’s new leader says it is better to build an indisputable case than be swayed by populist sentiment into hasty action.

By Zuraidah Ibrahim/ Bhavan Jaipragas


The Malaysian government is taking time to build a watertight case in the 1MDB financial scandal and not be swayed by populist sentiment, according to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Najib Razak: prime suspect in the 1MDB financial scandal. Photo: Xinhua

His predecessor Najib Razak is the prime suspect under investigation and has been banned from leaving the country. This week, Najib’s decision to go on holiday to the resort island of Langkawi – which coincidentally is the parliamentary seat of Mahathir – sparked fears he was trying to slip out of Malaysia.

Malaysia’s billion-dollar question: where did 1MDB money go?

The government and the people know that billions have been stolen, Mahathir said. But, calling for cool heads, Mahathir said in an interview with the South China Morning Post that the government wanted indisputable evidence. “So the prosecutors now are gathering that evidence so that when they go to the court of law, the judges don’t base their judgment on sentiment, but … on facts and evidence shown in the court of law. So that is why we are taking a little bit more time than we expected.”


He declined to give a timeline on the next stage of the investigations, even as speculation swirled in Malaysia that the charges could be filed against Najib as soon as the next two weeks.

But on Tuesday afternoon, he was quoted as saying that charges would be filed on key suspects – Najib, businessman Jho Low and “a few others” – within months, while a trial would begin later this year.

Charges against Najib would include “embezzlement, stealing government money, and a number of other charges,” he said in the interview with Reuters.

The 1MDB probe extends across six jurisdictions, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore. It has also targeted Najib’s wife, Rosmah, known for her flagrantly ostentatious taste in luxury goods. Set up in 2009 as an infrastructure fund drawn from oil revenues, it has lost US$4.5 billion and is now insolvent. Around US$731 million allegedly ended up in Najib’s personal account. The beleaguered former premier has denied any wrongdoing, insisting that the money was a donation from an Arab benefactor.


Rosmah Mansor, wife of Najib Razak, arrives at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Photo: EPA

Pakatan Harapan: Vulnerable?

In the interview with the Post, Mahathir, who won a stunning election on May 9, was asked about his views of a rising China and the region. In addition to taking questions about the 1MDB scandal, he was also asked to comment on the possible vulnerabilities of his Pakatan Harapan coalition.

While Pakatan now claims 125 seats in the 222-seat Parliament, a recent survey by the reputable think-tank Merdeka Centre has found that the coalition did not win over the majority of Malays, who make up 65 per cent of the population.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is interviewed by the South China Morning Post in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: SCMP Pictures

According to the Merdeka Centre survey, UMNO retained 35-40 per cent of the Malay vote, while the rest was almost evenly split between Pakatan and the Islamic-based party, PAS. In comparison, 95 per cent of Chinese voters chose Pakatan.

Malays have special rights granted by Malaysia’s Constitution. Almost all Malays follow Islam, the official religion of the country. Under the previous Barisan Nasional coalition, the Malay-based United Malays National Organisation was the dominant component party led by Najib. Umno had increasingly played the ethnic and religious cards in elections over the decades.

Supporters of Mahathir Mohamad celebrate his victory in the May 9 election. Photo: Reuters

Commentators credited Mahathir for attracting enough Malays into the Pakatan camp to tilt the balance decisively in its favour. Mahathir has immense stature among Malays as a respected former Prime Minister who held office from 1981 to 2003. The argument, if correct, begs the question of whether Pakatan will be able to retain Malay support after Mahathir steps down, which he has promised to do after two years.

In the interview, Mahathir said there was a clear swing of Malay votes from the Barisan coalition to the opposition in the recent election compared with the previous one in 2015 that contributed to their victory.

Ignoring 1MDB scandal caused Umno’s downfall in Malaysia: Najib

But the Malay vote itself was split between the rural, suburban and urban areas. It was in the latter two areas that Malays had turned against the previous government because they were disenchanted with the “bad things” happening within Umno, especially the corruption scandal.

For rural voters, he said, such issues were harder to grasp but they could understand cost of living woes.

He shrugged off his own personal appeal in winning the Malay vote for the future, saying: “Well, I can’t always be popular, one day I will become unpopular because when you are in the government, you have to do unpopular things. That is not something permanent.” But for now, people were upbeat and they felt that life during his first tenure as Prime Minister was better than during Najib’s time, he said.

Let’s Get Physical

Mahathir, who turns 93 on July 10, was also asked about his physical energy. He laughed, saying it was the number one question he was asked. Although Mahathir, a trained medical doctor, has had two heart bypass operations, he feels fortunate not to have suffered debilitating diseases such as cancer.

His secret to good health? “I think simple things like not putting on weight, not eating too much, proper sleep, a little bit of exercise,” he said, adding that he gets “enough” sleep – about six hours. When he is not able to do that, he has short power naps.

In May, a picture of him at the dining table with just a few spoonfuls of rice on his plate caught the attention of internet users. But then a close-up showed that next to his plate was a small green canister of multivitamin supplements, Berocca. Sales of the supplement received a sudden boost.

Anwar Ibrahim with Mahathir Mohamad in 1997, during the latter’s first stint as prime minister. File photo

Moving On

Under a pact made with his former nemesis turned coalition partner, former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, he is supposed to hand over the prime minister’s position after two years. However, there have been hints recently that Mahathir intends to stay beyond two years.

Asked about this, he admitted there was a lot to be done. Would he stay beyond two years? “Well, I don’t know whether people will permit me to stay longer. If there is some work I can still do, if I am still healthy, I can think and talk.”

But would he do so as Prime Minister? He demurred smilingly and said softly: “Ya”.

Throughout the interview, he answered questions evenly in his trademark unflappable tone, as an aide kept a strict watch on his time. Asked by a photographer for an autograph, he obliged willingly, noting aloud the date to write to accompany his signature. When the Post invited him to visit Hong Kong, the headquarters of the publication, Mahathir politely remarked about the times he spent there.

“My first ever visit to Hong Kong was in 1960. Where were you?” he quipped to his much younger interviewers.

Clare Rewcastle Brown: The Lone brave journalist exposes 1MDB corruption

May 17, 2018

Lone brave journalist exposes 1MDB corruption

An interview with Clare Rewcastle Brown, recipient of the Guardian Award

By Sarah Hofmann


Independent journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown, at the risk of her safety and without the protection of a news organization, has exposed the flow of billions of public Malaysian dollars from the government’s 1MDB development fund to the country’s top leaders and many others. She says democracies need strong, cynical, courageous media to help protect the public against the powerful.

Clare Rewcastle Brown has never been a stranger to controversy. She made a name for herself as a dogged reporter for the BBC, Sky News and ITV in the ’80s and ’90s. She married the brother of former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and in 2009, about 17 years after the wedding, found herself defending her husband and brother-in-law from accusations they’d used government expenses improperly. (See Gordon Brown’s family defends him over MPs’ expenses row, The Telegraph, May 11, 2009.)

That might be enough excitement for one lifetime for most people, but Brown’s real story doesn’t fully begin until 2005 when she returned to her birthplace of Sarawak in Malaysia. She was interested in the ongoing, widespread deforestation there and its effect on the native people of the region. As she dug deeper into who was profiting from the destruction of the jungle, she found corruption that began in the local level and climbed all the way up to the national government. (See The Accidental Whistle-Blower: How a Retired London Journalist Uncovered Massive Corruption Half a World Away, by Nash Jenkins, Time magazine, Jan. 6, 2017.)

“It was kind of incremental. I was following a strand that concerned me about what was going on and how our global systems were being managed to the enormous disadvantage of people in the environment and what appeared to be very dodgy practice,” Brown says in a recent interview with Fraud Magazine. “Of course, what I found is every time I uncovered the corruption, I was just getting higher and higher. The reason why nothing was being done about any of these appalling actions was because the corruption went right to the top.”

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Brown founded the Sarawak Report and a radio channel, Radio Free Sarawak, in 2010 to report on local issues in the region. As she continued to follow the money from the deforestation and surrounding corruption, she traced many currents of corruption from local government officials to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a Malaysian state fund publicly worth billions that was supposedly earmarked for construction and infrastructure improvements for the southeastern Asian nation.

When she started running up against roadblocks in her investigation and reporting, she pushed through — thanks to her journalistic instincts and her ties to the people in the region she’d lived in from birth until age eight.

“I could see it was a massive and underreported scandal of vast proportions,” Brown says. “I asked why no one was covering it, and for some time I hoped someone else would. Then I realized all the local people who knew about it felt disempowered.

“What seemed blatantly scandalous and criminal to me, many local people had become resigned to or just learned to accept as a way of life,” she says. “I was trying to remind people that just because it’s happening doesn’t make it right and doesn’t mean it has to go on happening.”

Brown, a keynote speaker at the 29th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference, June 17-22, in Las Vegas, will receive The Guardian Award, which the ACFE presents annually to a journalist whose determination, perseverance and commitment to the truth has contributed significantly to the fight against fraud. The award inscription reads: “For Vigilance in Fraud Reporting.”

Regional interest leads to national theater

Many parties were tied to 1MDB as investors, brokers or politicians benefiting from the goodwill that the promise of increased development would bring to the country. Big players included Goldman Sachs; PetroSaudi, a mysterious company with ties to the Saudi royal family; a Hong Kong-based Malaysian financier, Jho Low; and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. (See 1MDB: The inside story of the world’s biggest financial scandal, by Randeep Ramesh, The Guardian, July 28, 2016.)

“There were so many people taking 1MDB’s money,” Brown says. “The web of characters and high-profile organizations, the major banks that have been caught up with major failings and their due diligence and worth in all of this. … I mean, it’s very colorful stuff.”

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In the course of her reporting, Brown began uncovering unaccounted money flowing out of the 1MDB fund — not a few thousand here and there but hundreds of millions. About the same time that she’d begun asking questions about where the money had gone, she was hearing about Low’s lavish yacht parties and luxury real estate purchases in New York.

In 2010, Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, bought a production company, Red Granite Pictures, which produced the blockbuster movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Leonardo DiCaprio, the star of the hit, even thanked Aziz and Low in his acceptance speech after winning a Golden Globe for Best Actor in 2013. (See From IMDb to 1MDB and Leonardo DiCaprio Dragged Into Growing ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Money-Laundering Scandal, by Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter, July 21, 2016.)


After hearing that acceptance speech, Brown really began to dig into the potential 1MDB scandal on the Sarawak Report. “I wrote my first article raising questions about the money,” Brown says. “I didn’t mince my words raising real concerns about where young Riza Aziz had got the money to fund ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’ ”

Brown eventually began seeing strong enough patterns in her research to start openly alleging that a substantial amount of money missing from the 1MDB account had gone directly into the bank accounts of the Prime Minister, his family and their close associates.

“I was actually pretty worried that this story would get buried. … Very powerful legal forces were working hard to dissuade mainstream media from covering it. … The amount of legal hard-hitting that’s gone on to try and shut up the media on this story has been actually almost unprecedented,” she says.

In 2015, Brown caught a big break with the help of Xavier Justo, a whistleblower and former employee of PetroSaudi. Justo gave her more than 90 gigabytes of data from PetroSaudi including 227,000 emails related to the joint venture between PetroSaudi and 1MDB. Now that Brown had hard evidence of the inner workings of the partnership between PetroSaudi and 1MDB, she published a number of exclusive stories on the Sarawak Report. (See The Dodgy USD$700,000,000 Loan Deal At The Heart Of 1MDB’s Mega Debt Crisis EXCLUSIVE, Sarawak Report, Feb. 18, 2015.)

In August 2015, Justo was arrested in Thailand on charges that he attempted to blackmail and extort PetroSaudi in return for not leaking the documents. According to Thai police, Justo confessed to attempting the crime. After a little more than a year in prison, he was deported back to Switzerland. (See Swiss man linked to 1MDB investigation released from Thai prison, Reuters, Dec. 20, 2016.)

Brown also has relied on several other informants she believes adds invaluable insight to her reporting. “In the end it’s all about your sources. There is a tendency to rely on data these days as if it has some hidden magic, but in my experience the data can only go so far, and it is people who give you the insight and who are the key to any story I have done,” Brown says.

“You have to work hard on listening and talking to as many people near to the situation as you can, and you also develop a sixth sense about people who approach you with possible information. Often someone that approaches me who might sound nutty or suspicious can turn out to be that crucial insider who has a massive insight into what is going on,” she says.

“I am always ready to listen before I discount something, and I am always ready to put in the time and respect that such sources deserve as the brave and endangered individuals they often turn out to be. You just have to keep watching your back and checking everything.”

Despite the imprisonment of one of her sources, Brown continued to charge on in her reporting. She published 199 pieces in 2016 on the Sarawak Report and brought her findings to major newspapers around the world. “It was really hard to get this story out, and I had to just keep sort of interfacing, trying to pass information onto other bigger outfits than myself to make sure that it couldn’t be dismissed and that had to be taken seriously,” she says.

“I’d give my stories to other papers really just to make sure it got out there. And at the same time it served to gently bully regulators and say, well look, this is getting out in the media,” she says. “If you’re not going to be covering it, here it is documented here, here are the documents, and I’ve given them to you. And if you don’t do anything everyone’s going to know you didn’t.”

Fallout from investigating

Justo was released from prison in December 2016, but his imprisonment wasn’t the only consequence of 1MDB investigations. As Brown butted heads with elected officials, she was surprised at their reaction to questions from others in the media.

She says the Malaysian government owns the media. “People [in Malaysia] weren’t used to defiant reporting or my lack of ‘due respect’ for criminals who happened to have obtained positions of power. So, I gave everyone else a news story to talk about and report on just for speaking out when other local media were forced to continually self-censor,” she says.

“Also, the reaction was extreme, and that surprised me, since in freer media environments politicians have learnt to play it cooler. In Malaysia, people who were used to being all powerful in their little patch reacted with outrage and fury that anyone should point out their defects, which of course stoked the story,” Brown says.

As her investigation and reporting continued, she was stalked in London. (See British journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown given police protection after being followed and photographed in Hyde Park, by Ian Burrell, The Independent, Aug. 5, 2015.) The Malaysian government issued a warrant for her arrest in 2015.

The ACFE saw some of the direct effects of these efforts to discredit Brown’s work when she was scheduled to speak at the 2016 ACFE Fraud Conference Asia-Pacific. A week before the conference in Singapore, she received an anonymous tip that Malaysian officials had heard of her travel plans and would make arrangements with the Singaporean police to arrest her upon landing. Because Singapore has extradition agreements with Malaysia, she opted to stay in London and address the crowd via satellite video. (See Clare Rewcastle Brown Takes Conference Attendees Through Twisted Tale of 1MDB, by Sarah Hofmann, CFE, Fraud Conference News, Nov. 21, 2016.)

he fallout from her work has affected not just her, but her family as well. “It has frightened my kids actually. They, being younger, take ugly threats and nasty depictions of their mother much more to heart. I just tell them it’s cheap,” Brown says.

“On the other front, I know that desperate and criminal people can do desperate things. So, while I live my life fairly unaffected, I do have to take precautions and avoid going in harm’s way,” she says. “Some very brave people have met awful ends or disappeared in Malaysia, and we all know that many journalists have been the subject of revenge and attempts to silence them.”

As part of the smear campaigns against her, she’s been accused of being on the payroll of Najib’s political competitors. “[Najib’s] put a great deal of money attempting to undermine, discredit and attack me. I’m the one with the facts,” she says. “[According to him] I’m making it all up and am involved in some kind of nefarious plot with some kind of opposition. He keeps changing who’s paying me but, apparently, I’m being heavily paid to do this, the fabrication, forge. It’s all a bunch of nonsense that anyone can see that.”

She says she’s also been labeled as biased, unprofessional and disparagingly called more of an activist than a journalist. “I would prefer morally motivated individuals as journalists than moral-vacuum robotic reporters. I have no problem admitting that I am biased against criminal behavior, abusive behavior and the violation of accepted human rights,” she says.

“There has also been a great drive in society to create a class of ‘professional’ dispassionate journalists who are opinion free. Their duty is made out that it is to ‘report both sides’ with total moral equivalence for the ‘public to decide,’ ” Brown says.

The challenges she’s faced, though, haven’t dampened her spirit or belief in the power of investigation and reporting on corruption and wrongdoing. “Democracies need a strong, cynical, brave media cohort to look out for the public interest against people entrusted with positions of great power,” she says. “Every journalist treads a dangerous path every day if they write anything about the rich and powerful. Lying in wait are PR companies, lawyers, political voices and doubtless other journalists who are attached to the views of the rich and powerful who will come down on them like a ton of bricks. If they get it wrong, it can destroy them financially and reputationally in an instant.”

How 1MDB fits into the international corruption landscape

After years of raising questions about where the money from 1MDB had gone, Brown started seeing the story pick up steam globally in 2015. The connections she helped draw between the missing money and off-shore account arrangements (largely facilitated by Low) sparked even more public interest when the massive document leak dubbed the Panama Papers broke in April 2016. (See Panama Papers Show How Rich United States Clients Hid Millions Abroad, by Eric Lipton and Julie Creswell, The New York Times, June 5, 2016.)

“The Panama Papers confronted this whole world of offshore shady parallel finance. 1MDB fitted rather well into it because that was a case study that I’d worked from the bottom up,” Brown says. “1MDB was a perfect story of how a huge sum of criminal money was using the system — the offshore Panama system — to launder its way into the global economy.”

n 2015, Swiss authorities froze millions of assets and began to probe holdings linked to 1MDB. The U.K. Serious Fraud Office and the U.S. Justice Department publicly joined in a probe of the fund. In 2016, the Monetary Authority of Singapore also investigated 1MDB funds in their banks and seized approximately S$240 million in connection with the investigation. S$120 million allegedly belonged to Low and his family. Luxembourg, the Seychelles and UAE all said they were holding their own investigations as well. (See How Malaysia’s 1MDB Fund Scandal Reaches Around the World, by Shamim Adam and Cedric Sam, Bloomberg, July 22, 2016.)

Despite the flurry of interest shown in the 1MDB case in 2015 and 2016, 2017 was a relatively quiet year. Malaysian officials assured international regulatory bodies that all the money that was supposed to be in 1MDB had been accounted for appropriately. Najib began gearing up for another election, and public attention seemed to wane.


Brown isn’t concerned, however. “Unfortunately, these sorts of investigations take a very long time,” she says. “2017 may have been quiet, but there is a long way still to go with 1MDB.” She’s also wary of any optimism that her reporting on 1MDB could influence the upcoming election involving Najib.

“The election is a huge question in all this. It would be tragic for Malaysia if they are unable to get a massive kleptocrat, supported by a gang of thieves, out of office,” she says. “However, the system is massively skewed and gerrymandered, and cheating and bribing by the incumbent regime is established practice.”

However, even if Najib wins reelection, Brown’s work is certainly not for nothing. She believes her reporting on 1MDB will have long-reaching effects larger than just Malaysian political concerns. “What is useful in this process is that the entire unraveling of this scandal is continuing to shine a light on certain systemic failures that need dealing with,” she says. “For example, fraudster Jho Low is still traversing the world on a St. Kitts and Nevis passport that gives him access to the Shengen area and beyond. He was able to just buy that, and the pressure that has gone into supporting these various dubious passport regimes around the globe has started overlapping with a criminal element itself,” she says.

“This all is being exposed, along with the disgraceful and deliberate failures of bank after bank when dealing with their prime customers through their ‘wealth management’ divisions. Regular people go through anti-money laundering hell to move $10k legitimately, but there are no such problems for the rich billionaires who have been laughing with banks at how they tick the ‘compliance’ boxes in 99 percent of cases.”

Reflections on her work

Despite the hardship, roadblocks and threats she’s had to endure, Brown has no intention of slowing down her investigation. Rather, she sees it as part of a larger picture to combat systematic fraud. “I think it is important not to let the lessons of the scandal be forgotten or the overall problem players off the hook. This example has been a rare opportunity to demonstrate exactly why unregulated off-shore systems are a menace. They enable anyone who has an illegitimate source of wealth to hide it and then inject their wealth — and their own unwanted presence — into legitimate societies, where their wealth provides them with an undesirable level of influence,” Brown says.

“It is like a cancer of corruption that we are allowing to infiltrate our own social orders via this parallel world of illegitimate finance. If we do not cut it out then the consequences are very worrying — this is money that is going on to influence decision makers in our countries to give such people more power and position.”

While many of her feelings and experiences while investigating and reporting on 1MDB have been frustration, anger, stubbornness and even fear, the resolution she’s encountered has encouraged her. “I am most proud of the Malaysians who have bravely taken up this issue and transformed their political landscape in response to the evidence of corruption — they deserve a reformed government.”

She’s also reminded of the importance of journalism in the fabric of investigations into corruption and widespread abuses of power. “Journalistic experience was all I really had to offer when I first joined the various people who were concerned and trying to raise awareness about what was going on in Sarawak and indeed elsewhere in Malaysia and Borneo,” she says. “There’s a role there for journalists to interface with people who are trying to get information out for whatever reason and there are usually mixed reasons for wanting to get information out.

“I managed to dig out 1MDB, but remember, it’s the tip of the iceberg as Jho Low himself complained,” Brown says. “He said everyone else is doing it, so why is he the whipping boy? The answer is, someone had to get caught. But now the music must stop.”

Sarah Hofmann, CFE, is the ACFE’s public information officer. Reach her at: shofmann@ACFE.com.

GE-14: Malaysians Voted for Big Change. Now work hard for its success. There is no such a thing as a free lunch

May 15, 2018

GE-14: Malaysians Voted for Big Change. Now work hard for its success. There is no such a thing as a free lunch

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By Janice Fredah Ti


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Pakatan Harapan–Stop Bickering and Got on with the Business of Government

Let’s examine the word “revolution”. It’s usually used to describe the forceful or even violent overthrow of a government by a huge part of the population. It brings to mind chaos, fighting, tear gas and chemical-laced water unleashed against citizens; citizens fighting the authorities; police, ambulances, sirens, injuries and even death.

However, my understanding of the word “revolution” is not limited to just that. Revolution, to me, means a big change. It means any movement or activity brought about by concerned citizens to bring about a paradigm shift in the mindset of fellow citizens, that will hopefully eventually effect a major shift in any given political or socioeconomic situation through entrepreneurship, education, the ballot box and others.

Let us hope there will be more to come and lot of changes in personnel in the civil and foreign service and GLCs.

Given that, a revolution is hard to define. It’s hard to determine when it starts or comes full circle. But a half-revolution – that is what I’d like to explore today.

Given our unique political conundrum, made worse by economic uncertainty, Malaysians cannot be faulted for toying with the word “revolution”. One minute, we’re plagued by political fatigue and on the verge of giving up; the next, someone mentions “revolution” and we’re instantly energised!

But what exactly is a revolution in the Malaysian context? Are we managing our expectations, are we leaving things to chance, are some people blindly following so-called leaders, and are others being misled?

Many of us do not like the fact that we are dependent on opposition political parties for any possible change in government. However, many believe that we are. Efforts to create a meaningful and sizeable third force by informed and concerned citizens over the years have met with very little success. Smaller parties like PSM are doing great work but unfortunately, they have not been accepted into the main opposition coalition, perhaps due to ideological differences.

The main opposition pact, Pakatan Harapan (PH), consists of PKR, DAP, PPBM and Amanah. We also have the runaway faction of the standalone PAS, PSM and other smaller parties. Putting aside PAS for now, what is PH doing in terms of effecting a paradigm shift in the minds of the general population to bring about the much needed change in government?

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Governing Malaysia is no circus with clowns. It is hard work and sacrifice. There is no such a thing as a free lunch.

PH parties have been fighting among themselves. They were involved in multi-cornered fights in the Sarawak state elections, giving the enemy an easy victory much to the bewilderment and disappointment of those who placed their hope in them. Are we to trust them with federal power if they can’t sort themselves out in state elections?

Some remain silent while others flip-flop on important matters like RUU 355. Shouldn’t PH, as the main opposition coalition, have a collective stand on major issues concerning the people?

PKR’s Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail even went on record in an interview with Al Jazeera to say, albeit vaguely, things most would not like to hear on the hudud issue. She closed the interview by saying she was only a seat-warmer for Anwar Ibrahim.

DAP’s arrogance meanwhile has shot through the roof, what with the production of tacky video clips which supposedly serve to amuse a particular set of audience. And more than one DAP representative has used racial slurs in a public speech.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as Malaysia’s main opposition coalition is concerned, but it should not be taken lightly.

As if the ruling government’s circus of incompetent and corrupt members was not bad enough, the main opposition has started its own circus as well.

It all began with a major upset that occurred in the already-polarised nation torn apart by a government gone mad. A movement started by former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad emerged out of no where in 2016, and to date, all it has succeeded in doing has been to further divide the people, much to the amusement of the ruling government.

Why has this happened? Why is the nation divided by a new movement that didn’t quite accomplish its mission?Because it was started by none other than Mahathir himself, and supported by a string of stars in a line-up consisting of the ever-important who’s who of opposition political parties and civil movements.

For several months there was major confusion, debates, quarrels, and coffee shop talk that resulted even in the loss of friendships as people could not understand why others supported or refused to support such an initiative.

Some are adamant that the engineer of Malaysia’s current situation cannot be supported at any cost; that it would be an insult to former ISA detainees and their families (who, by the way, are very much alive and among us still); that he has never been sorry for what happened or for what resulted in Malaysia today; and so on and so forth.

This group of people think if Mahathir wants to start something, by all means he should but it is way too early to throw any support behind him. Others meanwhile are inclined to think that since Mahathir is taking this step, he should be supported regardless of his past deeds or association with current UMNO leaders, or for that matter, even his personal agendas if any.

The second group just want Barisan Nasional’s (BN) current top guy out, it seems. Some are fine with a reformed UMNO in the event that Mahathir does return to his former party, while some hope he will continue leading the opposition. Some don’t care about anything as long as the current top guy (Najib) is out. Who is right and who is wrong?

The leaders of some civil movements became involved, resulting in many Malaysians jumping into the fray to sign the Citizens’ Declaration without too much consideration. If you believe this is the right thing to do, well, they have rightly influenced people to the right path, otherwise they have misled them.

I am sure many would not disagree that a huge number of Malaysians would support and sign anything without question or analysis for the simple reason that their idols are there.

I personally think they have misled the people – not all, but many. We could argue until the cows come home, but don’t we all know of someone who has regretted signing the Citizens’ Declaration for one reason or another? This is the first step towards the grand disunity about to besiege the nation.

Based on the premise that a revolution is the result of unity and a paradigm shift in the minds of citizens, is this a revolution… or half a revolution?

Then came the formation of Mahathir’s new party PPBM, which initially accepted only Bumiputera membership. This was later revised to allow non-Bumiputeras to become associate members with no voting rights. I’m not sure how many, but I’ve been made to understand that quite a few non-Bumiputeras accepted this arrangement, including my own friends.

Have we not fought against racism for so long? Have we not complained about the current administration’s racially biased policies? Have we not completely despised groups like Perkasa (coincidentally, Mahathir is the VIP patron) and the infamous Ikan Bakar Tak Laku? And we are now told to accept a new racist party into the main opposition fold, because apparently, “we have no other choice”.

It’s mind-boggling, but again – is this leading us to the revolution we seek, or only half a revolution?

After an agonising wait, GE14 has finally been called. Most of us have been there, done that, seen and heard it all. Social media, which is a big part of many voters’ lives, is threatening to explode with the insults and quarrels from both sides of the political divide.

Understandable, many want change. But what change? Change is a process and a journey, not an event called GE-14. And a change to something worse is also called change.

PH, which has been entrusted to make this change, is now led by the very same person whom many acknowledge laid the foundation for the kleptocratic and autocratic government that we have today. To make things worse, he recently sought to exonerate himself from two of the nation’s saddest and darkest events: Ops Lalang and the prosecution of Anwar Ibrahim. How convenient!

For those who must believe that it takes a thief to catch a thief, please carry on. For the rest of us, this is not palatable. It was never an issue of forgive and forget, but more of what possible reforms PH can bring forward with Mahathir in the coalition. What reforms could possibly take place with someone who apologises and makes a U-turn in six hours? PH is taking us for a ride, lock, stock and barrel.

Someone once said, “Change can never take place from the level of consciousness it was created.”PH – are you leading us to a revolution, or half a revolution?

If PH is serious about change and good governance, why are its parties, particularly PKR, fielding last-minute parachute candidates, worse still those who are not local, for state seats? Last-minute decisions for something as important as what they call “the mother of all elections”?

The power struggle is so blatant, and they are trying to tell us that they are for the people? How are they different from the very people they wish to bring down – BN? Try harder next time, PH.

PH, we want a revolution, not half a revolution. Many are angry at my disapproval and constant bashing of PH, as well as what they call my idealism. They say I am seeking perfection when the reality is that it doesn’t exist. I don’t think idealism is exactly the opposite of realism, but let’s save that for another day. If idealism involves not voting for a half-baked opposition coalition which could have presented itself as a sincere catalyst of change through real hard work and good planning, I am fine with idealism for now.

Happy voting, abstaining, or spoiling of votes!

Janice Fredah Ti is an FMT reader.

The views expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect that of FMT.



GE-14: Malaysia Faces a Tense Election

May 8, 2018

GE-14: Malaysia Faces a Tense Election

by John Berthelsen


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On May 9, voters in Malaysia will go to the polls in what is believed to be the closest national elections election since 1969, when ethnic Chinese-based opposition parties held a victory rally in Kuala Lumpur that precipitated riots in which hundreds died, most of them Chinese, and fractured the myth of racial harmony in the country for good.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, the United Malays National Organization President and Leader of the Barisan Nasional, the national ruling coalition of ethnic parties, is arguably the least popular leader in modern Malaysian history although the Barisan has unlimited political funds and a smoothly running party machinery with long experience in bringing voters to the polls.

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Some 222 parliamentary seats are up for grabs, with 112 needed for a simple majority. Lim Kit Siang, the venerable leader of the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party, a major player in the four-party opposition coalition, on May 7 predicted the opposition would win 119 seats after one of his party generals was disqualified by the election commission.

Cliffhanger coming, analyst says

“It’s too close to call,” said a political analyst in Kuala Lumpur who asked not to be named. “The opposition have had the upside momentum since dissolution (on April 8); but the Barisan has pulled all the dirty tricks in the book.  Both sides are confident of simple majority. They are both talking about 120-125 seats each.”

Another longtime observer of politics in Malaysia was more pessimistic. “With the playing field just about vertical in favor of the Barisan, it would be a real shocker if they lost,” he said. “The opposition could get 60 percent-plus of the aggregate vote and still lose.”

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Others have called the election the best chance the opposition has ever had to take power. That has been manifested in the opposition Pakatan Harapan’s “ceramahs,” or political lectures that translate in fact as rallies. They have been mobbed, while enthusiasm at Barisan rallies has noticeably flagged.  Anwar Ibrahim, the country’s most charismatic leader, has called for an opposition victory from the prison cell where he remains on charges that local and international human rights organizations insist are trumped up

A sounding of voters by the Merdeka Centre polling organization found that 49 percent of the electorate believe the country is headed in the wrong direction against 44 percent who believe it is going in the right direction.

Mahathir to the rescue

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Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is Malaysia’s Man of the Moment

The 92-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has taken over the rudderless Pakatan coalition with Anwar in prison is to speak at 10 pm the night before the election.  Mahathir’s popularity appears to be soaring upward, especially after the Registrar of Societies outlawed the opposition party he formed, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, a move regarded as a transparent attempt to thwart his campaign. Anwar has pledged his loyalty to Mahathir despite that Mahathir also jailed him two decades ago on equally specious sex charges.

Where in the past the Barisan has been able to play on fears of a Chinese takeover of the political reins, with Mahathir, the former leader of the country’s biggest ethnic Malay party. now heading the opposition coalition, that card is more difficult to play

Najib is enmeshed in a long series of scandals, the biggest of which, the loss of an estimated US$4.6 billion from the state-backed 1Malaysia Development Bhd investment fund, has been called by US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions the biggest kleptocracy case ever prosecuted by the US Justice Department.

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Malaysia’s despised Couple–Najib Razak and self-styled First Lady of Malaysia Rosmah Mansor–is the focus of Malaysian Voters

More than US$1 billion in assets allegedly amassed in the United States by Najib and his family has been seized by authorities, who are hunting for more. Najib’s grasping wife, Rosmah Mansor, is regarded by a large segment of the voting populace as an Asian Lady MacBeth, out to prop up her husband in power while amassing vast amounts of expensive jewelry including a US$24 million diamond ring.

Wily politician

Najib is nothing if not an adroit politician. He has managed to split the rural, fundamentalist Parti Islam se-Malaysia, or PAS, away from the opposition on a promise to the party’s leader, Hadi Awang, to allow the implementation of shariah law in Kelantan, the only one of Malaysia’s 13 states it controls.

Despite the scandals, which include the suspicious 2006 death of the Mongolian party girl and translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, a key figure in the US$1 billion Scorpene submarine affair, the death of  AmBank founder Hussain Ahmad Najadiin 2013 and the 2015 murder of Deputy Public Prosecutor Kevin Morais, whose body was found in a cement-filled oil drum in a river, the Prime Minister has kept a tight grip on the party machinery through a combination of bribery of key cadres and playing on religious fears that an opposition victory could result in Chinese domination of the political process.

However, according to findings by the Merdeka Centre, at the top of voters’ concerns is the economy, with 45 percent nationally against only 20 percent putting scandals first despite the massive scandals that Najib is involved in. Only 3 percent are concerned by the 1MDB case, and only 2 percent care about the allegations against Najib’s integrity.

Najib could face jail if he loses

The possibility that Najib and other members of the family, including his wife, might go to jail if the Barisan goes down to defeat has meant the government has sought to copper its bets with a long list of actions that have disadvantaged the opposition. Among them, the government’s redelineation exercise has resulted in districts with as few as 5,000 constituents in UMNO-oriented areas against as many as 150,000 compressed into opposition districts.

In early April, the government hurriedly pushed through parliament a draconian “fake news” bill that the Communications and Multimedia Commission says it has used to investigate 1,500 news stories construed as untruthful. Civil society groups and international rights bodies including Amnesty International have called the bill an “assault on freedom of expression.” It mandates up to six years in prison and a maximum fine of RM500,000 (US$129,300).

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Critical news sites including Sarawak Report, Asia Sentinel and the blog of Cambodia-based professor Din Merican (pic above) have been banned in the country.  The mainstream news media all are owned by political parties aligned with the government.

So Najib has left as little to chance as possible. The only variable is how outraged the voters are.