Influential British editor banned from Sarawak

Jeremy Hance
July 03, 2013

Clare Rewcastle Brown, the editor of Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak, has been deported from Sarawak reports the Bruno Manser Fund. Both the Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak are known for high-profile and investigative journalism that is often critical of Sarawak's chief minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud or 'Taib', and his family for alleged corruption.

"I've been informed that I'm on the blacklist for Sarawak, which mean that I'll be turned away," Brown said in a video recorded today. "However, I feel compelled to make the effort to come to Sarawak because I wish of course to defend myself and to stand up against to accusations that have been made against me."

Brown, who's a former reporter with the BBC and the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, is currently embroiled in a libel suit by the Taib family.

"One of the reasons why I have been carrying out the work I do [...] is that it's impossible for people to operate freely in the media here and to report freely and openly about the situation in Sarawak," she says.

Abdul Taib Mahmud and members of his family have been accused widely of using Sarawak's vast natural resources for personal gain, including widespread logging of virgin rainforests and massive hydroelectric projects. The destruction of Sarawak's forests has also led to human rights abuses of the Malaysian state's indigenous people, many of whom have been pushed off of their traditional lands or have seen the forests they depend on razed. Last year, the Bruno Manser Fund estimated that Taib alone, who has headed Sarawak for 30 years, was worth $15 billion.

U.S. State Department cables revealed by Wikileaks have added further fuel to the fire.

"Taib and his relatives are widely thought to extract a percentage from most major commercial contracts—including those for logging—awarded in the state (Sarawak)," reads a cable to the State Department from 2006. "Embassy sources outside the government uniformly characterize him (Taib) as highly corrupt."

The Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak are some of the only media outlets in the state that are openly critical of Taib and his family members.

"The Bruno Manser Fund protests against this latest barring of a human rights activist upon entering Malaysia," the NGO says in a statement. "Earlier this year, Australian Senator Nick Xenophon had been deported from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, in a similar way. In 2011, Malaysian authorities deported French human rights lawyer William Bourdon who had been taken on by a local NGO in a high-profile corruption case. Under Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, Sarawak has become a prohibited zone for a number of Malaysian human rights activists, including Ambiga Sreenevasan, the co-chair of the Bersih movement for free and fair elections."

AUTHOR: Jeremy Hance joined Mongabay full-time in 2009. He currently serves as senior writer and editor. He has also authored a book.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (July 03, 2013).

Influential British editor banned from Sarawak .