Update: On 06 Oct. 2021, RNLJ received confirmation from INTERPOL that “no Red Notice request for Ms. Rewcastle Brown has been received by the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters, nor has any wanted person diffusion been sent via INTERPOL’s channels,” and that Fair Trials has been advised of this information. INTERPOL’s recognition of this case as one of significant public interest is appreciated.
One of the most critical forms of evidence used to identify and prove human and due process rights violations is the information contained in reports by investigative journalists. We rely on such evidence to tell us the truth about governmental activity, corrupt processes, and scandals that would otherwise remain hidden from view.
We have reached a point in time where true investigative journalism is in jeopardy. Investigative journalists are increasingly finding themselves the targets of oppressive regimes, retaliatory prosecutions, intimidation tactics, death threats, and physical attacks or even murder.
This week, three leading human rights and due process rights organizations spoke out publicly in support of one investigative journalist who has been targeted by the government of Malaysia in the past, and who appears to be the subject of a new case. Fair Trials International, Index on Censorship, and Article 19 have published a public request for INTERPOL to clarify its position with respect to the case of Clare Rewcastle Brown. Their letter to INTERPOL, found here, recounts the history of her case and the current reasons for concern:
“… Ms Rewcastle Brown is a British journalist known for exposing high-level corruption involving the former Prime Minister of Malaysia …, as the founder and editor-in-chief of the Sarawak Report. She faced charges shortly after the publication of the exposes for ‘activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy’, which formed the basis of a Red Notice request by the Malaysian NCB. Responding to Fair Trials’ letter from August 2015 expressing concerns that the Red Notice would likely violate INTERPOL’s rules, you responded to confirm that although the Red Notice request had been received, it was refused by the General Secretariat. We have recently been contacted by Ms Rewcastle Brown, who informed us that as of 23 September, she is subject to a new arrest warrant in Malaysia. According to media reports, she is being sought to face criminal defamation charges brought by the wife of the Sultan of Terengganu regarding statements made about her in Ms Rewcastle Brown’s 2018 book about the 1MDB scandal. We have serious concerns that the Malaysian NCB has attempted or is in the process of attempting to use INTERPOL’s systems once again to seek her arrest.”
These organizations and their representatives – Bruno Min, Jessica Ní Mhainín, and Sarah Clarke, respectively- are providing INTERPOL with the opportunity to publicly condemn the efforts of any INTERPOL member country that seeks to abuse its access to INTERPOL for repressive, illegal purposes.
If INTERPOL acts in a manner that is consistent with its past decisions in this case and other cases that violate international freedom of press standards, it will refuse to become involved in the case. If the organization deems this case to be publicly significant, it will also make a clear statement of its intention to remain uninvolved in the case.
As for Ms. Rewcastle Brown, her statement to Time in a 2018 interview sums up the likely reason for Malaysia’s current actions:
“If a government is overreacting in this way and treating you as such a dangerous threat, then you know that you are doing your job.”
We look forward to INTERPOL’s response and we owe Ms. Rewcastle Brown and her NGO advocates a debt of gratitude for their actions dedicated to the protection of freedom of the press, human rights, and due process.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.