'We made clear it [Najib suffering a mild stroke] was a rumour and speculated that the most likely cause was rumour mongering by rivals.'
KUALA LUMPUR: Online investigative portal Sarawak Report has denied that it committed “unforgiveable sins” by reporting a widespread rumour that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had recently suffered a mild stroke.
Its editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown also denied being “paid” to write the article.
Rewcastle-Brown had on Jan 5 posted a report headlined “Najib Stroke?” which stated that “word is seeping out that the Prime Minister of Malaysia suffered a ‘minor stroke’ over the weekend. Given the scandals building around him, perhaps the pressure has started to tell?”
The article alluded to the scandals linked to Najib, and Deepak Jaikishan’s latest revelations.
Following the article, another blog The Mole.my posted an article headlined “Sarawak Report commits unforgivable sin” and accused Rewcastle-Brown of using “subterfuge, calumny and sensationalism” in her report.
It pointed out that using “disinformation to fool the public are unforgivable sins for which Sarawak Report needs to atone”.
Rewcastle-Brown yesterday issued a statement in response to a letter from one Cecilia Victor from The Mole.my.
She said: “You accuse us of ‘unforgivable’ sin in having made public a widespread and persistent rumour in political circles that the PM has had a light stroke.
“We made clear it was a rumour and speculated that the most likely cause was rumour-mongering by rivals.
“Despite the denial, the rumours that Najib is receiving medical attention for TIAs are still persisting, so it is only right that there should be an official response to them, which Najib took the opportunity of our article to supply”.
(TIA stands for Transient Ischemic Attack. A TIA is sometimes called a mini-stroke and is the medical term for stroke-like symptoms that occur and resolve spontaneously within 24 hours. A TIA is treated very seriously and may be the harbinger of a stroke in the near future.)
Najib has since denied that he suffered a stroke.
In the letter, Victor had also asked Rewcastle-Brown if she was paid to write the article.
To which Rewcastle-Brown said: “No, I am not paid for the work I do on Sarawak Report.
“I do find it a very sad reflection on the mentality of so many of the Malaysian establishments that they seem to find it impossible to believe that someone might be doing something because of conscience rather than for money.
“I have witnessed an appalling human rights and environmental tragedy take place on the island of Borneo, driven purely by the staggering greed and ruthless selfishness of a handful of people in government.
“These people have neglected their duty towards their people, but I do not intend to neglect my moral duty in making these matters public. And I am happy to do that for free.”
To Victor’s second question as to whether SR was prepared to be investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Rewcastle-Brown asked “on what basis” this would be.
“The MACC, I believe, is tasked with investigating official corruption in Malaysia, so on what possible basis would it have any remit to investigate a London-based journalist?
“And what would MACC exactly be planning to investigate – the fact that I reported on a rumour that has had KL gossiping?” she asked.
Bring on the ‘evidence’
Victor also referred to a Jan 9 article in the NST website quoting Malaysian Malay Network Organisation (JMM) president Azwanddin Hamzah as saying that he had evidence that “a Sarawak Report blogger” was allegedly paid to write the story.
Azwanddin also said that he was willing to assist MACC’s investigation into Sarawak Report.
Speaking to reporters after lodging the report with MACC, Azwanddin said he believed Sarawak Report was “funded by several individuals with the intention of discrediting and tainting the name of the prime minister as well as mobilising a movement to destroy the nation’s economy”.
Rewcastle-Brown in response to Azwanddin’s alleged possession of “evidence” said: “When I write my own reports I take considerable pains to provide substantive evidence to back my claims – evidence that can be tested against other known information.
“If I do not have direct evidence, I acknowledge it. I never pretend I have evidence when I don’t .
“This is another aspect of what is known as proper journalism and it forms the basis of my credibility.
“So, please ask Hamza [Azwanddin] to produce his evidence.”