Home Civil Society Voices Group launches crowdfunding initiative for Clare Rewcastle Brown, Gerakbudaya and Vinlee Press

Group launches crowdfunding initiative for Clare Rewcastle Brown, Gerakbudaya and Vinlee Press

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Engage is relaunching Freedom Fund, a revolving fund it first initiated in 2015, to provide financial assistance to those whose rights under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution have been affected – meaning they are fined, jailed, sacked or had privileges withdrawn.

The primary purpose of Freedom Fund 2.0 is to help Clare Rewcastle-Brown, Gerakbudaya Enterprise and Vinlin Press, who had to pay the sultanah of Terengganu a total of RM300,000 in damages and RM120,000 in legal costs in equal proportion after the Court of Appeal in December 2023 overturned a High Court decision last year that dismissed the defamation suit in Clare and the two defendants’ favour.

So far, around RM128,000 has been raised by Clare from the UK; we are still short of RM292,000. While the case is still under appeal to the Federal Court, the three respondents still have to put on standby the full sum in case the Federal Court upholds the appeals court decision and the amount is needed to be paid in full.

However, should the Federal Court overturn the appeals court decision and the money raised is no longer needed for these three respondents, it would remain as part of Freedom Fund 2.0 to help others who fulfil our support criteria.

The alleged defamation was a simple matter of mistaken identity in the first version of Clare’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. Though this error had been being corrected in subsequent versions of the book, the legal action continued.

READ MORE:  Freedom Fund 2.0 update

Furthermore, the government initiated another criminal defamation action against Clare and the case was moved to Terengganu, the complainant’s home state. The magistrates’ court sentenced Clare to two years’ jail in the absence of the accused, Clare. No notices, summons or information was given to Clare’s lawyers to prepare her defence or for her to appear. This is highly irregular and possibly illegal.

Many in Malaysia know that the exposé of 1MDB was a major reason that led to a regime change in the 2018 general election. As such, on the sixth anniversary of that election, we want to appeal to the Malaysian public to stand with Clare and 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 that election.

For this crowdfunding exercise, we are using Malaysiakini’s Sokong crowdfunding platform for non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The Engage bank account linked to Sokong is a new account solely dedicated to Freedom Fund 2.0. Donors can click on this link and donate their “RM10 to say thank you” or any amount they wish to donate, using their credit or debit cards, Grab e-wallet or FPX.

Or bank the amount in directly to Engage’s Freedom Fund 2.0 account at:
Account holder: Engage Citizen Network PLT
Bank: Public Bank Berhad
Account number: 323 866 9514
Reference: Clare

READ MORE:  Freedom Fund 2.0 update

It is our hope that Malaysians will respond generously to this appeal as we are reminded of the crucial role played by Clare and Sarawak Report in their investigative journalism to expose the scheme to defraud public funds through 1MDB.

The people of Malaysia owe Clare and the team behind Sarawak Report a huge debt of gratitude. We should not let them bear the burden of the RM420,000 alone and the heavier burden of them bringing down two small businesses in Malaysia that published and printed her book.

The bigger impact if we fail to raise the needed funds is that it would have a chilling effect on press freedom in Malaysia, that there are no guarantees that investigative journalism that exposes the powerful and corrupt will be defended by the people.

Democracy cannot progress and will continue to be stunted without the work of courageous journalists and media organisations. If we do not want grand corruption and kleptocracy to rear its ugly head again in Malaysia, we must stand with Clare, Gerakbudaya and Vinlee Press in their hour of need. – Engage

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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