Malaysia raids Al Jazeera and offices of two other broadcasters in probe on documentary

Al Jazeera journalists arrive at the police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on July 10, 2020.
Al Jazeera journalists arrive at the police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on July 10, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian authorities raided the offices of Al Jazeera in Kuala Lumpur and that of two local broadcasters on Tuesday (Aug 4), as part of a probe over a documentary by the Qatar-based company that alleged mistreatment of foreign workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The offices of Astro and Unifi TV were also raided by the police and government watchdog Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), police said in a statement. It is believed that Astro and Unifi TV had broadcast the Al Jazeera documentary.

Al Jazeera said two computers were seized.

“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,” said managing director of Al Jazeera English Giles Trendle in a statement.

“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 apologise for. Journalism is not a crime,” he added.

On July 3, Al Jazeera aired Locked Up In Malaysia’s Lockdown, which focused on the plight of thousands of undocumented migrants detained during raids carried out in areas under tight coronavirus lockdowns.

The documentary which was critical of the Malaysian government’s move, sparked an angry public backlash online, while the Malaysian government decried the report as inaccurate, misleading and unfair.

 
 

This prompted the police to launch an investigation and a manhunt for a Bangladeshi national, Mohamad Rayhan Kabir, who was critical of the Malaysian government when interviewed in the documentary.

Malaysia’s Immigration Department said Mr Rayhan, 25, was arrested on July 25 and his work permit was revoked.

“This Bangladeshi national will be deported and blacklisted from entering Malaysia forever,” the immigration department's director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud said late last month.

Police have also questioned reporters and staff from Al Jazeera over the documentary.

Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob recently urged Al Jazeera to apologise to Malaysians, saying the allegations of racism and discrimination against the undocumented migrants were untrue.

Since coming into power in March, the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has been accused of suppressing media freedom.

 
 

On the flip side, there is rising anger towards foreign migrants and refugees in the country, who are accused of spreading the coronavirus and taking jobs from locals who have been hit hard by the pandemic.

There are some 2.2 million registered foreign workers in Malaysia, mostly from Indonesia, Nepal and Bangladesh. There are also an estimated two million more migrants who work in the country illegally.