10 things about: Clare Rewcastle Brown, journalist

British investigative journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown founded the Sarawak Report news blog and Radio Free Sarawak. — The New York Times pic
British investigative journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown founded the Sarawak Report news blog and Radio Free Sarawak. — The New York Times pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 26 — Clare Rewcastle Brown – who has been reporting on deforestation and graft in Sarawak, and now, on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) – says she’s not motivated by a white saviour complex.

“This is not about being white or non-white,” says the British investigative journalist, who founded the Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak – both based in London – in 2010.

“It’s global corruption and I’m not going to get into racial things about it,” adds the 56-year-old.

Rewcastle Brown, who has previously received death threats over her highly critical reporting about graft in Sarawak, says she is now being stalked in London following her recent exposés.

But the Sarawak-born journalist, who formerly worked with British broadcaster BBC, is not afraid.

In a Skype interview with Malay Mail Online, Rewcastle Brown talks about her passion for investigative reporting, what she has learned about Malaysia, and why she’s so driven to investigate corruption.

In her own words:

I’m a journalist and I follow the story. This is an amazing story. I’ve been a journalist all my life. Looking at corruption in Sarawak… in the course of looking at these crimes, I started coming up with what’s happening in 1MDB. I followed up a number of sources, and tested them against the facts, and I’ve published what I found out.

I’m not prepared to be frightened by threats. I’ve got nothing to hide. I have been stalked around London. Someone’s spying on me and photographing me. But if we all live in fear, then we have no future. My family has been fairly pragmatic, they’re not being frightened either. They’ve always supported me.

All I’m doing is the job of journalism. I’m not meddling. I can’t vote in Malaysia. If no one wants to believe, if they think what I’m saying is wrong, then no one would take any notice of me. One of the reasons I have been doing this is out of my sense of obligation because Malaysian journalists are not able to do it because of media oppression. I’m not fearful, but there’s a great deal of fear among Malaysian journalists.

I’ve had many, many Malaysians, far more than I have critics, encouraging me and thanking me. I feel like I’m invited to do this even though I’m afar.

It’s a bit like you see something really dreadful happening and no one else is reporting it and no one else is doing anything. Do you shrug your shoulders and walk away, or do you do something? There may be many people criticising on the outside, but I’m being invited to write about Sarawak and 1MDB. Malaysians from all over the political spectrum — I have people I talk to throughout Malaysian political bands and they all appreciate what I’m writing about. [Barisan Nasional politicians say] “Keep it up, Clare. There’s a lot of corruption and we don’t like it”. I have millions of hits. People don’t have to read my blog if they don’t want to. If they want to, why not?

I find it quite frustrating to be the subject of all these stories instead of people looking harder at the issues that we’ve brought their attention to. I think there’s a lot of diversion going on, instead of looking at real issues. There seems to be a lot of police time being wasted on investigating ridiculous stories by Lester Melanyi for example, when police time should be spent on investigating criminals who stole money from Malaysia.

I think [Malaysia’s] a great country with lots of great people. Many are very able and educated. But unfortunately, the institutions have been eroded so these people are not being protected against thuggish leadership, against thuggish political power.

Reporting is about bringing people information… I think there are a few people now in Malaysia who know more than not. So I consider that a job well done. What they decide to do with that information is their choice. Everyone knows about what I’ve reported. That’s my job. I don’t feel that I’ve failed, or that I might fail.

What keeps anyone going? Some people do gardening. I do this.

Maybe because my dad was a policeman, I don’t like people who break the law… that’s what I’m best at doing — investigating corruption. It’s my job. It’s what I do.

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