Malaysia police summon Al Jazeera journalists for questioning

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The controversial 101 East episode Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown on 3 July 2020. Video: Al Jazeera

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Malaysian police summoned six Al Jazeera media workers today for questioning relating to an investigation for defamation and violation of Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA), reports IFJ Asia-Pacific.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Australian affiliate the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) have called on authorities to drop the case against Al Jazeera immediately.

The IFJ received reports that six media workers were called to Malaysia Central Police Headquarter in Bukit Aman about 8:50 am (GMT+8) on July 10.

They include senior producer and correspondent Drew Ambrose, producer Jenni Henderson, and the network’s bureau chief, executive producer, cameraman, and digital crew.

According to MEAA, five of the six media workers are Australian. The investigation relates to allegations against Al Jazeera for “sedition, defamation and violation of the country’s Communications and Multimedia Act” after airing Al Jazeera’s 101 East documentary Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown that investigated why the covid-19 pandemic has forced migrant workers into hiding.

In its statement, Al Jazeera “strongly refutes” the charges, which criticised the documentary as being inaccurate, misleading and unfair.

The network “stands by the professionalism, quality and impartiality of its journalism”.

Al Jazeera emphasised the episode does not contain the personal opinions of any its staff, stating the network repeatedly requested and was denied interviews with several senior government ministers and officials.

Malaysia’s CMA is routinely abused targetting journalists despite the Communication and Multimedia minister’s commitment to review the act’s restrictions on press freedom.

Since March 2020, the IFJ has recovered 19 instances of authorities enforcing the CMA to intimidate media workers and freedom of expression advocates.

MEAA wrote to the High Commission of Malaysia in Australia noting: “Malaysia’s obligations under UN General Assembly resolution 74/157 The Safety of journalist and the issue of impunity adopted on December 18 2019 that states Malaysia, as a UN member state, should do its ‘utmost to prevent, violence, threats and attacks targeting journalists and media workers.’ MEAA calls on you to fulfil that obligation towards our colleagues.”

The IFJ said: “The IFJ deeply regrets Malaysian authorities abusing the Communications and Multimedia Act to silence and intimidate journalists. There has been a distinct pattern under the Covid-19 crisis of media workers targeted under Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Act and Penal Code for simply doing their job. It is urgent for Malaysia during the Covid-19 pandemic to prioritise the public’s right to know and for the media to be able to report freely and fairly without the threat of persecution.”

Al Jazeera Malaysia
Al Jazeera journalists arrive at the Bukit Aman police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur today. Image: Mohid Rasfan/AFP
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