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Reader’s view: Nominate Rewcastle Brown for global journalism award

Clare Rewcastle-Brown has thrown down the gauntlet - Photograph: independent.co.uk

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Clare Rewcastle Brown, the editor of Sarawak Report, should be nominated for an international journalism award for outstanding investigative journalism on the 1MDB scandal, says CW.

One possibility is the Courage in Journalism Award by the International Women’s Media Foundation, one of the world’s highest honours for distinguished journalism. The awards have recognised more than 100 women journalists across 56 countries “who set themselves apart by their extraordinary bravery”.

Rewcastle Brown and her reporting team broke the story of the 1MDB scandal implicating former Prime Minister Najib Razak, his associate Jho Low and their related cronies.

Sarawak Report carefully analysed a gigantic and often confusing global web of financial documents, balance sheets, photographs, government paperwork and thousands of bits of leaked data from sources to track how US$4bn-8bn was siphoned away from the Malaysian public.

In 2015, Rewcastle Brown was praised by the Index on Censorship for being a “champion against censorship”. Her tireless investigations have also been recognised by media outfits such as the Economist, Al Jazeera and Time.

It was Rewcastle Brown who reported that hundreds of millions of US dollars had found its way into Najib’s personal bank accounts. Through trusted anonymous sources, she also reported that Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor burned millions on a pink diamond necklaces and other fancy jewellery.

For her brave reporting, Rewcastle Brown was followed and photographed by unknown individuals in Britain. She also fearlessly withstood calls for her arrest and imprisonment – all because she exposed such massive white-collar crimes.

Embarrassingly, the Najib administration attempted to use Interpol’s “Red Notice” system to locate and provisionally arrest Rewcastle Brown pending extradition – which was, of course, immediately rejected by Interpol leaders. The Sarawak Report portal itself holds the badge of honour of being officially blocked by the previous government on grounds of ‘national security’ – until the block was finally lifted after the 2018 general election.

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Thanks in part to Sarawak Report’s investigative journalism, the Najib-led Barisan Nasional government lost in a humiliating defeat in the 9 May 2018 election, powered by angry Malaysian voters coordinating their efforts around the world. Najib now faces 39 criminal charges and he was even labelled as an alleged “crook” in a Newsweek article headline.

Rewcastle Brown’s investigative reporting helped finally free 1MDB whistleblower Xavier Justo, who otherwise faced three years of unjust jail time in a nauseating Thai prison. This was all grim, arduous, thankless – and unsafe – work. But Rewcastle Brown, her Sarawak Report team and their trusted sources quietly rose to the occasion, time and time again.

Despite the relentless criticism on Rewcastle Brown by the previous administration and its supporters, Sarawak Report’s fastidious explanations and clear writing was finally vindicated.

Rewcastle Brown deserves to be acclaimed with an international media award. Around March 2019, when nominations for the International Women’s Media Foundation Award open, Malaysians should submit their written online nominations in support of Rewcastle Brown.

This global journalism prize would recognise her and those who helped finally push out Malaysia’s worst government ever.

CW is the pseudonym of a regular Aliran reader.

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