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Malaysian Government Critic Faces DDoS Attack

Sarawak Report exposed an international propaganda campaign. The attack comes a few weeks before the election

Posted on April 11, 2013, at 11:45 a.m. ET

Bazuki Muhammad / Reuters

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak.

WASHINGTON — A website critical of the Malaysian government is down on Thursday in what its owner says is a denial-of-service attack.

Sarawak Report, run by British investigative journalist and Clare Rewcastle Brown, has been taken offline. So has Radio Free Sarawak, an AM radio program Brown founded.

Brown, whose brother-in-law is former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, wrote on Sarawak Report's Twitter and Facebook that her sites had been the victims of a denial-of-service attack. She didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sarawak Report broke the story in 2011 of a London-based public relations and television production firm, FBC Media, being paid to produce propaganda for the Malaysian government, which was aired as editorial content on the BBC and other major international television networks. That effort was part of a covert propaganda campaign that also made its way into the onto American online outlets.

It's unclear who carried out the attack, though the incident is taking place in a moment of heated political rhetoric: the Malaysian general elections are set to take place on May 5. The governing party led by current Prime Minister Najib Razak has been in power for 56 years, but faces a stiffer challenge this time around from the opposition, led by Anwar Ibrahim — a main target of the propaganda campaign.

Update: Brown sent out a statement on Thursday saying that hers is not the only site to have been attacked: (5:59 p.m.)

The websites for Radio Free Malaysia, Radio Free Sarawak and the news portal Sarawak Report, which represent free media in Malaysia, have all been subject to relentless DDOS attacks since the beginning of this week.

Today, Thursday 11th April, the sites were hacked and all three were brought down. The attacks have coincided with various forms of jamming which have been attempted against the broadcasts of both the independent Radio Stations, which operate from outside of Malaysia.

According to Brown, this is not the first time she's been targeted.

The Distributed Denial Of Service (DDOS) attacks have been mounting against the anti-corruption site Sarawak Report for the past few weeks. The site has focused on exposing timber corruption over the past three years, demonstrating how the destruction of the Borneo Jungle has been driven by a small number of politically connected individuals in the East Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah.

Yesterday, Wednesday 10th April, the site was targeted by 64 million hits designed to take down its server. The sister sites for the two radio stations received similar attacks. Most of the attacks have radiated out of Russia and Eastern Europe and site administrators were able to fend off the onslaught until the site itself was hacked earlier today.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.