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Alternative Radio Stations For Malaysian Opposition Assert Cyber Attack by Government

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, April 12 2013

The owner of anti-government Malaysian media outlets based in Britain says they have been the victims of cyber attacks designed to shut them down. Radio Free Malaysia, Radio Free Sarawak and the news portal Sarawak Report have reported being targeted by DDoS (denial-of-service) attacks for weeks. Clare Rewcastle-Brown, the founder of all three news outlets, asserts that the Malaysian government is behind the attacks. In a press release she announced that on April 10th the Sarawak Report was targeted by 64 million hits and the sister sites were similarly attacked; on April 11 the sites finally shut down.

“This kind of DDOS attack is expensive and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and the only people with that kind of money in Malaysia are people associated with the regime. Only independent and opposition friendly websites are ever targeted,” Rewcastle-Brown explained in an email. A government spokesperson denied any government involvement in the attacks, according to ABC Australia.

Newcastle-Brown explained to techPresident that she founded the Sarawak News Report to expose alleged timber corruption that has destroyed the Borneo Jungle, and that she began Radio Free Sarawak in order to reach the isolated communities affected with that information in their own language, in cases where they might not have Internet access. She believes it has had a profound effect on the community.

“People ring in every time there are reception issues by the score and they come in early from the fields to make sure they catch the beginning. We have had comments like "it is my second wife" to "it has saved our lives,” ” Rewcastle-Brown explained by email.

Radio Free Malaysia got up and running in March in order to broadcast interviews and announcements from the opposition. The first broadcast was an interview with Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader up for election, originally taped by the business radio station BFM. According to The Free Malaysia Today, “The interview was never aired, due to “concerns” over Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission regulations.”

This is not the first time the Sarawak Report has reported being under attack. Leading up to an election in Sarawak in 2011, the site suffered similar attacks and had to “go on the run,” Rewcastle-Brown told The Free Malaysia Today.

The upcoming general election in Malaysia will take place May 5th, and it looks like it will be the most closely fought race since independence from Britain in 1957. There are already concerns being voiced about election roll discrepancies and the possibility ofviolence this year.

One reason the election will be so hotly contested is the influx of first-time voters. Approximately 2.3 million of Malaysia’s 13.3 million register voters (1 in 5) will be voting for the first time, according to the Straits Times. “Pollster Merdeka Centre surveyed 826 first-time voters between November and December last year. More than half admitted to being agnostic in their politics. Still, two-thirds felt the government had paid attention to their needs,” the Straits Times continues, “These voters, of whom 90 per cent said they had access to the Internet, are less likely to vote by political party and more ready to base their votes on issues," said Merdeka program director Ibrahim Suffian at a recent forum.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.