Malaysian authorities raided the offices of Al Jazeera in Kuala Lumpur and that of two local broadcasters on Tuesday morning, as part of their investigation into Al Jazeera’s documentary on the plight of migrants in Covid-19 affected Malaysia.
It is believed that the offices of Al Jazeera, Astro and Unifi TV were raided by officials from the Malaysian police force and the government watchdog, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.
Two computers were seized from Al Jazeera’s office.
“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.
“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.
The domino effect that came with the release of the documentary cannot be understated.
First, it started with widespread condemnation by government officials such as Ismail Sabri and DG Noor Hisham with regards to the contents of the documentary and how it apparently painted the government in a bad light. The “false” accusations as Mr Sabri put it were an insult to not only the government but also the front liners (somehow).
This then triggered a socially accepted and state sanctioned manhunt for the Bangladeshi man in the Al Jazeera video whose only crime was speaking freely on his experience as a migrant in Malaysia. He was eventually arrested and coerced into apologising. In return, he was allowed to return to his homeland. Who can really blame him when he had to go into hiding for a while out of fear of the government’s reprisal?
Not only that, Astro has come under flack from the government for its prior coverage of an Al Jazeera documentary on the murder of a Mongolian national and which implicated former Prime Minister Najib Razak. Astro was fined on 7 July 2020 for airing the documentary in 2015.
We also had some white dude and expensive mouth piece for the government rebut the documentary in a video which only helped enlarge the divide and inflame anti-migrant hysteria in Malaysia.
After that, riding on the heels of Malaysians who seem altogether contemptuous of migrants as a whole, the government also took the opportunity to audaciously mandate that none of us can film anything and put it up on social media, EVEN if it is for our own private usage. This one all they can rush to do but stuff like eradicating child porn and building infrastructure to detect pedophiles entering the country cannot. It may seem to be two different things but honestly what are the PN government’s priorities? Actions speak louder than words.
Article 19 which is a British human rights organisation focusing on the promotion of freedom of expression and information condemns the PN government’s recent action today on the Al Jazeera office as well.
“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 ARTICLE 19’s Head of Asia Programme, Matthew Bugher,
Amnesty International Malaysia has also criticised the authorities raid on Al Jazeera’s office, saying “the government’s crackdown on migrants and refugees as well (as those) who speak up in their defence is clearly meant to silence and intimidate and should be condemned.
“Protect migrants. Protect freedom of expression,” it said in a tweet.
Al-Jazeera's office in KL was raided by police authorities today.
The government's crackdown on migrants and refugees, as well those speak up in their defense, is clearly meant to silence and intimidate and should be condemned.
Protect migrants. Protect freedom of expression.
— Amnesty International Malaysia (@AmnestyMy) August 4, 2020
Ouch. Do better Malaysia, the world is watching.