âReporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned Malaysia for issuing warrant of arrest against Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown.
In a statement yesterday, the France-based NGO urged Putrajaya to stop censoring media outlets that have been reporting alleged corruption involving Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
RSF noted that Malaysian authorities have been targeting news media that had reported the allegation of huge government funds being channelled into Najib’s personal bank accounts.
This included whistleblower website Sarawak Report being blocked on July 20 by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission while The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily were suspended for three months each.
Malaysian police then issued a warrant for arrest for Rewcastle-Brown on Aug 4, on the charge of an 'activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy', said the watchdog body.
CID director Mohmad Salleh said the police would also proceed with applications to place her on the Aseanapol wanted list as well as the Interpol red notice.
“We call on the Malaysian government to drop all charges against Rewcastle-Brown, to rescind the suspension of The Edge publications, and to stop blocking the Sarawak Report website,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, head of Reporters Without Borders' Asia-Pacific desk.
“It is completely unacceptable for the government to harass journalists because of their investigative coverage of matters involving the prime minister or any other Malaysian official," he said.
'Just doing their jobs'
Both Sarawak Report and The Edge had covered allegations of misappropriation of 1MDB funds doggedly, including claims that RM2.6 billion was deposited into Najib's private bank accounts.
Some of the allegations were based on leaked e-mail communications between PetroSaudi International and 1MDB.
Putrajaya has insisted the information used for the damaging reports was 'tampered with' but the whistleblower portal and The Edge have stood by their reports and challenged critics to sue them.
Ismaïl said the censorship on journalists performing their job by covering a story of interest to the entire Malaysia public was not acceptable.
Malaysia was ranked 147th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.