KUCHING (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reporter Linton Besser described as ridiculous Malaysia's latest attempt to justify the arrest and detention of him and his colleague Louie Eroglu on Saturday over kidnapping fears.
Reacting to a minister's comment here on Wednesday (March 16), Mr Besser tweeted: "A circus. First I hadn't registered for the event, then I had been aggressive, then I breached a cordon. Now this."
Attached to the tweet was a screengrab of a report quoting Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Hamzah Zainuddin as saying the tighter security controls around Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was due to possible kidnapping fears.
Mr Hamzah, who made the comment as Mr Besser and Mr Eroglu were put on a plane from Sarawak, dismissed the notion that there was no press freedom in the country.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed had also suggested that the Australian journalists were investigated for not having applied for a work permit.
Mr Besser and Mr Eroglu were arrested, detained and questioned for obstructing a public officer in carrying out his work under Section 186 of the Penal Code.
The duo were shooting a segment for investigative journalism show Four Corners. An executive producer of the programme, Ms Sally Neighbour, has disputed the police's claim that the Australians were deported.
"The @4Corners reporters were not deported. They were released because there was no case against them," Ms Neighbour tweeted.
In an interview with ABC upon arriving at Changi Airport in Singapore, Mr Besser said: "It's been widely reported we've been deported by the Malaysian authorities and indeed we were whisked through airport and immigration and customs by uniformed police.
"And even all the way to our seats on the plane where we're photographed by a very nice police officer... at no point were we told we were being deported. Our passports don't say we've been deported. We were never given a piece of paper to say that that was the case."
On Tuesday, local lawyer Albert Tang told The Star he was unsure if his clients had been banned from entering Malaysia or Sarawak.
Mr Besser said they would remain in Singapore for a few more days to continue their investigations.