Radio Free Sarawak wins International Press Institute Free Media Pioneer Award

From IPI

This year’s winner of IPI’s Free Media Pioneer Award, Radio Free Sarawak, was founded in 2010 by journalist Clair Rewcastle Brown, and bills itself as “the independent radio station that brings you the news you want to hear, not what others want you to hear.”

In practical terms, this bold mission has involved ongoing attempts to expose the alleged corruption of the government run by the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Abdul Taib Mahmud, who has ruled the Malaysian state since 1981.

Broadcasting via both shortwave radio and podcast, Radio Free Sarawak contributors have been investigated, detained and charged with possible acts of sedition by the Home Ministry of Malaysia, along with accusations of spreading “malicious lies and threatening unity and harmony among races.”

During the bitterly contested 2011 Sarawak elections, Radio Free Sarawak and its sister site Sarawak Report were subjected to what were believed to be deliberate, if ultimately unsuccessful, efforts to silence them via cyber attacks.

In a message to IPI about the IPI award, Claire Rewcastle wrote: “It comes at a very meaningful moment for us as we struggle to keep on air over the last 3 days of a crucial election period in Sarawak, Malaysia, in the face of determined jamming and cyber-attacks on our website.

“Each of our staff face threats against them and their livelihoods should their identities face exposure. It will lift the hearts of our audiences in the longhouses of Sarawak, who are our dedicated listeners, to know that not only has our little radio station reached out to offer them support, but that our efforts have received the accolade of the wider global community of journalists through this award.”

IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills noted: “It is this dogged commitment to pursuing and reporting the news, however difficult, that led to our decision to honour Radio Free Sarawak as IPI’s 2013 Free Media Pioneer. We salute their diligent efforts to offer listeners an independent voice for unbiased news and information in Sarawak, Malaysia.”


Malaysian Government Critic Faces DDoS Attack

April 12, 2013

Malaysian Government Critic Faces DDoS Attack

Sarawak Report exposed an international propaganda campaign. The attack comes a few weeks before the election, from Buzzfeed

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak. Image by Bazuki Muhammad / Reuters

WASHINGTON — A website critical of the Malaysian government is down on Thursday in what its owner says is a denial-of-service attack.

Sarawak Report, run by British investigative journalist and Clare Rewcastle Brown, has been taken offline. So has Radio Free Sarawak, an AM radio program Brown founded.

Brown, whose brother-in-law is former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, wrote on Sarawak Report’s Twitter and Facebook that her sites had been the victims of a denial-of-service attack. She didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sarawak Report broke the story in 2011 of a London-based public relations and television production firm, FBC Media, being paid to produce propaganda for the Malaysian government, which was aired as editorial content on the BBC and other major international television networks. That effort was part of a covert propaganda campaign that also made its way into the onto American online outlets.

It’s unclear who carried out the attack, though the incident is taking place in a moment of heated political rhetoric: the Malaysian general elections are set to take place on May 5. The governing party led by current Prime Minister Najib Razak has been in power for 56 years, but faces a stiffer challenge this time around from the Opposition, led by Anwar Ibrahim — a main target of the propaganda campaign.

Parliament Dissolved Finally !

April 3, 2013

Parliament Dissolved Finally!

Yeah, This is the Way, Man

  I want a Responsible and Honest Government

After months of playing a guessing game with voters, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has announced the dissolution of Parliament today, paving the way for the 13th General Election.

NONEHe said this in a 15-minute ‘live’ telecast on all television stations at 11.30am, following an audience with the Agong early this morning.

“This morning I had met the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and sought his permission to dissolve the Parliament. And he had given his consent for the same,” Najib announced.

However, Najib made a mistake during the live broadcast on the date of dissolution, reading the year 2013 as 2012. “This morning, I have sought an audience with the Agong and delivered the instrument of dissolution to His Majesty for the consent to dissolve the 12th Parliament today, April 3, 2012.”

Najib called on all state assemblies to be dissolved today as well, to enable state and parliamentary polls to be held simultaneously.

The Election Commission (EC), according to law, will have to fix the date for the election, which must be held within 60 days.

NONE“I advise all state leaders to face their respective heads of state to seek permission for dissolution of state assemblies as well so that we can have simultaneous elections across the country,” he said.

Najib, who was wearing a red tie, was flanked by his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, and made the announcement in the presence of all of his cabinet ministers.

The announcement falls on the fourth anniversary of Najib’s tenure as Prime Minister, and he asked the rakyat to remember the “transformation” that the government had been under way in the past four years under his leadership.

“In these four years you have witnessed the national transformation has taken place,” he said, stressing that his is a “responsible” government.

Only official media were allowed to broadcast the announcement from within Najib’s office in Putrajaya. Previous Prime Ministers who were known to take questions from reporters after declaring the dissolution of Parliament.

Reporters from other media waited in the rain outside the office, as they were not permitted to enter or take shelter in the security station’s waiting area.

However, the reporters – some of whom arrived as early as 8am – were told at around noon that there would be no press conference.

“We initially thought there was going to be a press conference. That is why we all came and camped outside, but then we were told at the last minute that we can only watch via ‘live’ streaming,” said a disappointed reporter who did not want to be named.

“It would have been okay if we were allowed to watch inside (instead of waiting in the rain).”

Over to EC

Contacted later, Election Commission (EC) chairperson Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said the commission will call a meeting to decide the date for nominations and polling.

abdul aziz yusof spr chiefThis can only be done after the EC receives a letter of notification from the speaker of Parliament, he said.

Asked when he expects to receive the letter, Abdul Aziz (left) said: “Maybe today or tomorrow or Friday or Saturday.But once we receive the notification letter, we will meet to fix a date for the polls.”

Soon after Najib’s announcement, Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim revealed on his Twitter account that he will seek an audience with the Selangor Sultan in the shortest possible time.

“Thank God, finally the Parliament is dissolved. I will seek an audience with Sultan as soon as possible to discuss the status of Selangor state assembly,” reads his Twitter posting.

According to law, the general election must be held within 60 days of dissolution of Parliament.

Nevertheless, it is speculated that EC is likely to pick a date in early May.The minimum campaign period is 10 days, a new requirement imposed by the EC in line with a recommendation by the parliamentary select committee on electoral reform.

Najib will be seeking his first mandate since assuming the post of Prime Minister on April 3, 2009, after taking over from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Today marks the fourth year of Najib’s premiership.

In 2008, Abdullah had led BN to its worst ever electoral outing, losing five states as well as its long-time hold on a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

There are 222 parliamentary seats currently up for grabs, with the BN holding 135 seats, Pakatan Rakyat 75, and 12 in the hands of Independents and three other parties.

Pakatan controls four states – Selangor, Penang, Kelantan and Kedah – while BN has nine under its belt.

This time around, Najib is seen as facing an increasingly cohesive federal opposition, which aims to unseat the BN and install Anwar Ibrahim as Prime Minister.

This election will see a huge number of new voters – an increase of 3 million, or 25 percent, since 2008, making it the biggest spike in Malaysia’s electoral history.

Goodbye to 12th Cabinet

To 12th Cabinet,Thank You For Your Service

Other Paid Malaysia Bloggers Never Registered With U.S. Authorities

The best line in this article, other than the noose slowing tightening on APCO is this:

“Have you ever had a head of state make you breakfast? I found myself in that unusual position on Sunday morning, when Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi made me his unique Malay porridge.”

Other Paid Malaysia Bloggers Never Registered With U.S. Authorities

Conservative blogger Joshua Trevino’s registration as a foreign agent raises questions about his colleagues.

Rosie Gray

BuzzFeed Staff

Two of the main players in the campaign funded by the Malaysian governmentthat placed undisclosed propaganda in the American press did not file with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), an omission that lawyers say could place them in legal jeopardy.

David All, a Republican online operative whose David All Group originally contacted conservative writer Joshua Trevino, Trevino said, to conduct a PR operation on behalf of the Malaysian government, is not listed in the records. Nor is Jerome Armstrong, a pioneering liberal blogger whose MyDD was for a time a key site, and who took a leading role alongside Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas in Matt Bai’s 2007 book on how bloggers and billionares were remaking the Democratic Party, who Trevino says was engaged by All at the same time as him to run the website as part of a paid media push that backed the country’s ruling party and attacked its critics.

A defunct “about” page for Malaysia Matters listed Armstrong among the founders: “Those working on this project include David All, Jerome Armstrong and Joshua Treviño,” the page said.

Trevino, who last week belatedly filed his own foreign agent registration, told BuzzFeed on Sunday that Armstrong was hired to be his liberal counterpart on MalysiaMatters.

“David All also brought in Jerome,” Trevino said. “I stopped working with him when I stopped working with APCO. He did not transition over to FBC [Media].” APCO Worldwide was in charge of the contract with Malaysia and ultimately David All and the writers, and continued working on Malaysia projects after Trevino’s editorial pursuits transitioned under the aegis of FBC Media.

Armstrong did not reply to repeated requests for comment. In 2011, he told BuzzFeed editor (then at Politico) Ben Smith in an email:

I worked on it and blogged about it back then, iirc [if I recall correctly], it was mid 2008, and it was with the former PM, not Najib. Mine was just a temp contract, did a trip over there as a precursor for having other bloggers there; and then they had a shakeup, it never materialized, and I moved on. I didn’t work for Trevino on it (he was there before and much longer after my brief stint), but through David All and …. (I can’t remember the DC PR group, but there was a big press dust-up about it in 09 iirc).

Malaysia has a really strong blogosphere, and I subsequently got involved on my own with continued conversations with some of the activists and political groups there, but is not a country with a free press. That all changed with the internet by the middle of the decade, and there as a brief moment when it was feared that things would go the way of Singapore. In 2008, bloggers were being thrown into jail, and Badawi was hearing from many that he should outlaw blogs/online political speech. So, when I was there talking with him, it was about praising his initiative, and telling him that would be a very good legacy for him to have initiated…. and showed him how Malaysia Matters worked, and tried to get across to him that it could be used by any political party; that he should be meeting with antagonistic bloggers and try to win them over. Badawi seemed to get it, but his communications director listened in, and by the ‘online outreach’ results of the next special election, and his subsequent blogger outreach, it definitely turned out that way.

Asked to comment further, Armstrong said ” I don’t recall the contract, and ours usually have a non-disclosure type of clause in there.”

The David All Group was partly owned by APCO before he closed it in October 2012, he told BuzzFeed.

All’s status as someone working on behalf of the client would normally have been registered with FARA either as a short form registrant or listed on APCO’s filings regarding the Malaysian contract.

“It’s so long ago,” All said when reached by phone on Monday. “The David All Group was owned in part by APCO Worldwide and [Malaysia] was their client, so I just worked with APCO.”

“I’m sort of gathering more information and looking into this a little bit more,” All said. “My goal is not to hide anything. It was not a covert operation.”

All corroborated Trevino’s account of being engaged on the project at the same time as Armstrong, though Armstrong’s involvement ended earlier than Trevino’s.

Armstrong and Trevino were in Malaysia at the same time, according to Flickr photos. They met with the Prime Minister.

The photos above picture Armstrong and Trevino in Malaysia and were posted to Armstrong’s Flickr feed, picturing a trip to Malaysia in June 2008. The Prime Minister at that time, Abdullah Badawi, made his guests porridge, according to an email from Trevino passed along to BuzzFeed by a source that describes the incident and links to a now-broken MalaysiaMatters post: “Have you ever had a head of state make you breakfast? I found myself in that unusual position on Sunday morning, when Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi made me his unique Malay porridge.”

Cached versions of posts Armstrong wrote about Malaysia are still available online (see herehere, and here).

According to the FARA website, federal law requires that agents “register within ten days of agreeing to become an agent and before performing any activities for the foreign principal.”

The act specifies that “failure to register, keep accounts, mark informational materials, provide a congressional committee with a copy of the agent’s most recent registration, and agreeing to a contingent fee based on the success of political activity are violations of the Act.”

“If he’s employed by his own company he should have filed as an agent,” Joseph E. Sandler, a lawyer and FARA expert, said of All. “If he’s not an employee, if he’s a consultant, he should do his own FARA filing.”

APCO, he said, “should have shown their payments to him on their FARA filings.”

“And secondly he should have registered himself as an agent for him because he’s indirectly working for a foreign principal,” Sandler said. As for Armstrong, “if he knew they were acting indirectly on behalf of the Malaysian government, and knew that’s where the money’s coming from, he should have registered.”

Another lawyer who specializes in FARA law and who wished to speak on background said “It sounds like they’re at least close to the line.”

“Generally, you have a registration for the agent itself and for the persons who are directly providing a service for the foreign principal,” the lawyer said. “If you are writing informational materials at the direction or control of a foreign principal,” he said, registration is required.

Adam Williams, spokesman for APCO Worldwide, said the firm, which appears to have orchestrated the propaganda campaign, could not immediately commment.

“We’re looking into it so we make sure that we have all the facts straight. We want to make sure that we’re 100% honest and accurate.”



UMNO/BN spent 10s of millions of dollars to try and buy soft and friendly news on American media. The total effect of that expenditure of taxpayer dollars has been nil. However, as a result of its unethical activities, for absolutely no money, UMNO/BN has managed to get far more negative media in the last 24 hours than it could have ever afforded on its own. Let’s recap:

Din Merican’s blog broke the story with my post yesterday linking to Josh Trevino’s FARA statement.

Soon thereafter the very popular US news and entertainment site Buzzfeed published a lengthy investigative piece by Rosie Gray. Buzzfeed receives over 25 million unique visitors per month which is about the same as the respectable Washington Post and 10x what Malaysiakini sees per day.

















Within a few hours additional follow up stories appeared on

Talking Points Memo [here] about 1 million monthly uniques and read by many political and business insiders













NY Magazine [here] about 1 million monthly uniques



 [here] – about 12 million monthly uniques

Screenshot_3_2_13_7_47_AM 2










Politico [here] – about 10 million monthly uniques, including most of the influential US politicians











Wonkette [here], another political insider site














and to add insult to injury, Gawker, which usually focuses on celebrity gossip, carried a piece today on its FRONT PAGE to its 5 million monthly readers [here]












Meanwhile, the even more popular Huffington Post site took down articles written by Trevino when it learned that those articles violated the Huffington Post’s on (relatively low) blogging standards.





Although you can still read a cached version of this article from August 2010 in which Trevino tries to cozy up with the Malaysian Attorney General Gani Patail in supporting the prosecution persecution of Anwar Ibrahim in court.

On the Twitters, Josh Trevino had a bad day yesterday. While he himself maintained an upbeat and positive attitude, critics were relentless. It appears that Trevino could care less what ethical lines he crossed since he was paid handsomely for his work. But others have been less forgiving:
































and my personal favorite:









You may be asking, SO WHAT? UMNO/BN embarrasses itself on an almost daily basis. When given the opportunity in the international community it embarrasses itself even more effectively by groping women, casting racial slurs, and mentioning investigations of allegations of murder leveled against its head of state during press conferences when no one ever asked about said allegations.

I think this matters for several reasons

  1. All of a sudden Malaysia, which is never in the international media even in the case of the carnage in Sabah, is all over US media. Which means they will be taking some note of what is happening in the country, which is good, especially with elections around the corner. I believe that the allegations of electoral fraud will garner more attention given this intense media pressure.
  2. The Malaysian government and UMNO/BN which regularly attacks Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia for being a Jewish agent has demonstrated its willingness to engage with vehemently pro-Israeli, anti-Muslim writers to do its dirty work around the world.
  3. Anwar Ibrahim is once again vindicated in his very vocal attack against APCO that started in 2009/2010. Back then many people criticized him for overreaching but pretty much everything he said back then has proven to be true.
  4. Between the Prime Minister’s office and Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s office all told perhaps over 50 million dollars was spent on paid media to prop of the image of these two figures. One has to wonder the ROI on that expenditure. In both cases the PR strategy has been exposed as fraudulent. The people and organizations involved have been fraudulent and there has been intensive blow back. So much money from public coffers was wasted on these operations.





Malaysia’s Development Strategy Revisited

October 20, 2010

Malaysia’s Development Strategy Revisited

by Dr. Mohamed  Ariff*

Malaysia has turned 180 degrees since Independence in 1957, transforming itself into a thriving modern economy and leapfrogging from a low-income to a middle-income trajectory. The country owes its prosperity to its economic openness, with trade as the lifeblood and foreign direct investment (FDI) as the Continue reading