Malaysian authorities conducted a drive at Kuala Lumpur office of Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera and seized two computers on Tuesday, as part of the ongoing investigation over a documentary report aired by the channel.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) also raided the offices of two local broadcasters, Astro and Unifi TVs, reports Malaysian daily The Straits Times.
The development came following the detention of Bangladeshi migrant worker Rayhan Kabir for his critical statement about Malaysian authority in the documentary report “Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown” aired on July 3.
In a statement, Al Jazeera condemned the move and described it as a “troubling escalation in the (Malaysian) authorities’ crackdown on media freedom.”
Giles Trendle, managing director of Al Jazeera English, said “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 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.
Al Jazeera aired the documentary report on griefs of undocumented migrant workers detained during drives in areas under coronavirus lockdown.
Several migrant workers, including Bangladeshi Rayhan, revealed their ordeal and came up with critical statements about Malaysian authorities when Al Jazeera interviewed them in the documentary.
The documentary sparked huge public outcry 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Malaysia’s Immigration Department said Mr Rayhan, 25, was arrested on July 25 and his work permit was rescinded.
Later, the authorities announced that he will be deported and blacklisted from entering Malaysia forever.