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Clare Rewcastle Brown

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Title: Clare Rewcastle Brown  
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Subject: Forestry in Malaysia, Deforestation
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Clare Rewcastle Brown

Clare Rewcastle Brown
Born 1960, aged 54
British Crown Colony of Sarawak
Nationality United Kingdom national
Alma mater London School of Economics
Occupation Journalist
Editor-in-chief of Sarawak Report
Spouse(s) Andrew Brown
Parents Karen (mother)

Clare Rewcastle Brown is a British investigative journalist. Born in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, she is the founder of Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak which are openly critical of the Barisan Nasional-led state government of Sarawak.

Early life, education and career

Brown was born in Sarawak to British parents (before the territory joined Malaysia) and attended the local primary school.[1][2] Her mother, Karen, was a midwife who helped look after indigenous babies at remote clinics.[1] She moved to the United Kingdom when she was eight, attended private boarding school and subsequently obtained her masters degree in international relations from the London School of Economics.[1] She became a journalist, joining the BBC World Service in 1983.[1]

Clare is married to Andrew Brown, the younger brother of former British Prime Minister Gordon. Andrew was implicated for accepting payments for a cleaner through the Prime Minister's expenses during the expenses scandal in May 2009.[3] In a letter to The Guardian, Clare hit back at the accusations, saying her husband and Gordon were both using the cleaner's services under a "very ordinary" arrangement and sharing the expenses.[1][3] The Telegraph, the newspaper which ran the story, later acknowledged that Andrew never received any improper benefit.[4]

Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak

During a visit to Sarawak in 2005 to speak at an environment conference, Brown was asked by local journalists and activists to help publicize the deforestation in the state.[2] However, when she began probing into the issue, she became blacklisted from the state and received death threats.[2]

In February 2010, she founded Sarawak Report, a blog seeking to highlight the destruction of Sarawak's tropical rainforests for profit and alleged corruption by the state government led by Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.[1][2] Sarawak Report alleges that Taib and his family have profited from the land taken away from Sarawak's indigenous communities and have multiplied their wealth in assets and properties across the world.[5]

In December that year, Brown also set up Radio Free Sarawak to broadcast her findings on the radio to local Sarawakians.[2] Radio Free Sarawak's DJ is Peter John Jaban, who was fired by one of Sarawak's state-controlled radio stations for allowing callers to criticize Taib.[1] Brown met Jaban in 2008 while reporting on a by-election in Sarawak and invited him to become the voice of Radio Free Sarawak in London.[1]

Before February 2011, Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak operated anonymously. However, Brown and Jaban decided to go public after one of her informants, a former Taib aide, was found dead.[1] Ross Boyert, who used to head Taib's supposed real estate arm in the United States, was found dead in a Los Angeles hotel room with a plastic bag around his head in September 2011.[6] Boyert had claimed that he and his family had been harassed since he filed a lawsuit against the real estate company in 2007.[6]

During the period leading up to the April 2011 Sarawak election, Brown said Sarawak Report was forced to constantly switch its address after an onslaught of cyber attacks. She blamed the ruling Barisan Nasional for the disruption.[7] She also claimed that Radio Free Sarawak's signal was jammed by an agent hired to broadcast at the same frequency as the station.[8] Brown worked closely with opposition politicians during the election, including Baru Bian.[1][9]

Malaysian Deputy Information Communication and Culture Minister Joseph Salang Gandum called Radio Free Sarawak illegal as it was not licensed with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.[10] In March 2011, Taib's party, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), filed a police report against Radio Free Sarawak.[11]

Public relations target

In August 2011, Sarawak Report highlighted the fact that FBC Media, a media production company which produced programs for CNBC and the BBC among others, had been doubling as a public relations firm for Malaysian politicians, including Taib.[12] It alleged that FBC produced shows designed to cover Taib and the state government in a positive light.[12] In light of the revelations, CNBC cancelled World Business, a program produced by FBC, while the BBC suspended all FBC-produced shows from their programming.[12][13]

Brown had earlier suggested that a PR firm commissioned by Taib had been conducting a "defamation campaign" against her, including hiring journalists from The New Ledger to carry out attacks against her.[14] She also accused the PR firm hired by Taib of creating a "rival" blog, known as Sarawak Reports, to attack her and post "propaganda material promoting Taib," and editing her WorldHeritage entry by citing discredited allegations from such attack sites.[14] The "rival" blog has since been taken down[15] while FBC Media went into administration on 24 October 2011.[16]

In December 2011 it emerged that Brown's WorldHeritage entry was one of many secretly targeted by PR firm Bell Pottinger.[17]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Cohen, David (22 February 2011). "Gordon Brown's sister-in-law tackles corruption in Borneo".  
  2. ^ a b c d e  
  3. ^ a b "Gordon Brown's family defends him over MPs' expenses row".  
  4. ^ "Andrew Brown: MPs' Expenses".  
  5. ^ "About Us".  
  6. ^ a b "Swiss NGO Links Los Angeles Killing to Timber Corruption in Malaysia".  
  7. ^ Teoh, Shannon (12 April 2011). "Sarawak Report ‘on the run’ after cyber-attacks".  
  8. ^ Teoh, Shannon (15 April 2011). "Radio Free Sarawak says signal jammed".  
  9. ^ Chooi, Clara (5 March 2011). "Pakatan eyes Gordon Brown’s in-law help in Sarawak campaign".  
  10. ^  
  11. ^ "Rogue radio under investigation".  
  12. ^ a b c "'"CNBC drops 'World Business.  
  13. ^ Coy, Kevin (4 August 2011). "BBC Drop FBC Media Programming Over Partiality Concerns". News On News. Retrieved 7 August 2011. 
  14. ^ a b "Gordon Brown Made Victim of Taib's Malicious Internet Campaign".  
  15. ^ "Bye Bye Sarawak Reports!".  
  16. ^ "FBC’s Final Betrayal – Friedman Accused of Dumping Workers!".  
  17. ^ Newman, Melanie; Pegg, David (8 December 2011). "Bell Pottinger targeted environmental campaigner on WorldHeritage".  

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