Help Us Survive Royal Damages Award

Sarawak Report was the website that stood up to immense threats and challenges for several years, working unpaid and in the public interest to expose the world’s greatest recorded kleptocracy scandal known as 1MDB.

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As Malaysians know, this resulted in the overthrow of a corrupted regime and the imprisonment of a prime minister who oversaw the theft of billions of dollars to benefit his family, his cronies and his political party.

It is the role of journalism in a democracy to bring such matters to light and that role depends on freedom of speech and protection of the media against abusive legal cases brought by the rich and powerful to cripple their ability to speak the truth.

On Tuesday, litigants in a case of alleged defamation, which had been dismissed as unfounded by the High Court last year, succeeded in getting that judgement overturned in favour of a wealthy royal client, the Sultanah of Terengganu.

The Appeal Court has issued an award for costs of RM120,000 and damages of RM300,000 against the author of The Sarawak Report and two fellow defendants.

This amounts to a thousand times less than the astonishing RM300 million that the wealthy royal was demanding for a case of harmless mistaken identity, yet it is a ruinous sum for the three defendants targeted in this case.

Under Malaysia’s outdated libel laws both the local printer and distributor of the book have been targeted and held equally liable with the author of the book meaning that the three between them will have to share the burden of the total sum of RM420,000 (over £70,000) quite apart from other legal costs.

Sarawak Report is already preparing its appeal to the Federal Court against this shocking reversal of a clear acquittal. We strongly maintain there was no insult and no libel uttered against the litigant in this book.

However, for now these damages must be paid. Unless we can together with our wonderful supporters raise the sums demanded, these two brave and hardworking small businesses in KL will face bankruptcy caused by the billionaires who sued to punish Sarawak Report.

Neither printer nor distributor had read or were responsible for the text. They merely provided access to a much awaited book written to inform the Malaysian people exactly how billions in public money had been stolen which had been earmarked for development.

They thought they were doing a public duty. No one had imagined this libel would be alleged, and the complaint over the mistaken identity of a person (who was never accused of wrongdoing in any way) has long since been corrected.

Meanwhile, simultaneous criminal proceedings have been brought against the British based author in the litigants’ home state of Terengganu.

A warrant was issued for the arrest of Clare Rewcastle Brown by a local magistrates court without even warning her that charges had been brought. (They have her number and email and could have notified her).

Prosecutors even applied to INTERPOL to drag her to Malaysia to face a trial in the Kuala Terengganu courts under the threat of jail. That so-called Red Notice extradition request has been rejected by the international police agency.

All this over one line in a book that even the litigant herself admits is not defamatory now that her own identity has been replaced for several years by that of a royal relative instead.

Sarawak Report will contest the strange reversal of this case and we will fight for our rights under British law (the jurisdiction in which this book was published) and on the international stage as well.

However, we ask for the support of decent Malaysians to help us raise the money to protect the two businesses who are faced with bankruptcy in Malaysia over this cruel fine in favour of one of the world’s wealthiest women.

Please do join together to help us keep standing up for the truth and to keep informing Malaysians when it comes to corruption and the abuse of power.


Your views are valuable to us, but Sarawak Report kindly requests that comments be deposited in suitable language and do not support racism or violence or we will be forced to withdraw them from the site.


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