Old Wall Street Journal report about corruption in Malaysia recirculates online

·3 min read

Multiple Facebook posts have shared a screenshot of an article that states "according to the Wall Street Journal, Malaysia is the most corrupt country in the world for doing business in 2022." The screenshot includes a ranking chart credited to the American newspaper and Transparency International, a corruption watchdog. However, the claim is false; the Wall Street Journal's report was actually published in 2012. The survey featured in the report has been discontinued, the international corruption watchdog told AFP.

The screenshot of an article from a Malaysian website called "The Coverage" was published on Facebook here on June 26, 2022, where it has been reshared more than 1,200 times.

The article's headline reads: "Wall Street Journal: Malaysia Ranked No 1 Most Corrupted Country In The World For Doing Business".

The accompanying chart is titled "Cost of Doing Business - Percentage of companies that say a competitor's bribery has cost them business in the past year."

Text at the bottom appears to credit the information to Transparency International and the financial newspaper the Wall Street Journal.

The post, which includes a link to The Coverage's article, is captioned: "MALAYSIA MOST CORRUPTED IN THE WORLD?
Via The Coverage".

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on July 14, 2022

Malaysia has seen multiple corruption scandals in the past, including the multi-billion dollar 1MDB scheme that contributed to the fall of then prime minister Najib Razak in 2018.

The screenshot was also shared alongside a similar claim in English here and here, and in Malaysian here.

It was also posted on Twitter here, where it has been retweeted more than 2,800 times.

However, the claim is false.

Malaysia-based clickbait website The Coverage published similar reports about the Southeast Asia country topping the corruption ranking, at least  twice in 2022 -- in January and June -- but with different headlines.

Both articles credit the Wall Street Journal in its article.

A keyword search found this report, published by the Wall Street Journal on December 11, 2012, headlined: "Malaysia Tops Bribery Table."

The report cites a survey of corporate executives by global corruption watchdog Transparency International, which found 50 percent in Malaysia had said yes when asked if they thought "they had lost a contract in the past year because competitors paid a bribe".

The Wall Street Journal's report also includes an identical chart as published in The Coverage's articles.

The Coverage's articles are nearly identical with the Wall Street Journal's report.

Below are screenshot comparisons of the chart and article in the misleading article (L) and the 2012 Wall Street Journal report (R):

Screenshot comparison of the chart from the misleading post (L) and the original Wall Street Journal chart (R)

Screenshot comparison of the misleading post (L) and the original Wall Street Journal article (R)

The January 2022 version of The Coverage's article also links to a Wall Street Journal video from 2012 about corruption in Malaysia:

Corruption index

Transparency International told AFP on July 11, 2022 that the last time it ran the survey of businesspeople for the Bribe Payers Index was in November 2011.

AFP found Transparency International had published a blog post here in September 2012 and updated it a month later here with a link to the complete dataset, which was the Wall Street Journal report was based on.

Spokesperson Shubham Kaushik said the organisation "decided to discontinue the survey due to funding issues and to focus on issues that are more in line with our advocacy goals".

The Berlin-based organisation still publishes a Corruption Perceptions Index, which in 2021 ranked Malaysia 62 out of 180 countries. Denmark, Finland and New Zealand were the least corrupt at the top of the index, while South Sudan ranked 180.

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