Malaysian police on Tuesday raided the office of news broadcaster al-Jazeera and two local TV stations, seizing computers as part of an investigation into a documentary on undocumented migrants that enraged the government.
Al-Jazeera, a Qatari-state owned broadcaster, said in a statement that police seized two computers during the raid, which it called a “troubling escalation” in a government crackdown on media freedom.
It urged Malaysian authorities to cease the criminal investigation.
However, Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador yesterday insisted that the investigations into the documentary were being conducted “very professionally” and rejected concerns about worsening media freedom.
“It was not a military kind of action taken by the police,” he told Agence France-Presse.
Al-Jazeera staff were “informed earlier of our intent to be there. They were even asked which devices were used. They cooperated,” he said.
Abdul Hamid said the investigation “will be very transparent” and insisted journalists in Malaysia were still free to do their jobs, but he also urged international media to “be responsible,” calling them not to “write something ... that is inaccurate.”
Police last month opened an investigation into the al-Jazeera documentary on the treatment of undocumented migrants after officials complained that it was inaccurate and biased.
Seven al-Jazeera staff members have been grilled by police as part of the probe for alleged sedition, defamation and breaching the Communications and Multimedia Act.
Police obtained court warrants to search the offices of al-Jazeera, as well as local broadcasters Astro and Unifitv, criminal investigation chief Huzir Mohamed said in a statement.
The two local TV stations had reportedly aired the video.
Huzir said the raids were conducted jointly with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, which is also investigating the stations.
Al-Jazeera said the raid was “an attack on press freedom as a whole” and urged Malaysian authorities to cease the criminal investigation.
“Conducting a raid on our office and seizing computers is a troubling escalation in the authorities’ crackdown on media freedom and shows the lengths they are prepared to take to try to intimidate journalists,” al-Jazeera English managing director Giles Trendle said.
“Al-Jazeera stands by our journalists and we stand by our reporting. Our staff did their jobs and they’ve got nothing to answer for or apologize for. Journalism is not a crime,” he said.
The documentary, Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown, investigated undocumented immigrants it said were at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 2,000 migrant workers were arrested during raids in areas in Kuala Lumpur that were placed under tight virus lockdowns.
Malaysian authorities also detained a Bangladeshi man interviewed in the documentary after revoking his work permit, and said they would deport him for criticizing the government over its handling of undocumented migrants.
“The authorities’ relentless pursuit of al-Jazeera seems to be driven by a desire to punish journalists who aired Malaysia’s dirty laundry rather than a good faith application of the law,” said Matthew Bugher, head of the Asia program of British-based rights group Article 19.
Malaysia should investigate the rights violations shown in the documentary instead of targeting the filmmakers, he said.
Rights advocates have voiced concern over a clampdown on freedom of speech and media independence under Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who took power in March.
Additional reporting by AFP
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”