KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia has arrested a Bangladeshi national who criticised the government over its treatment of migrant workers in a report by broadcaster Al Jazeera, the government said yesterday.
The July 3 report on Malaysia’s treatment of undocumented foreign workers during the Covid-19 pandemic sparked a backlash in the South-east Asia nation, with several officials describing it as being inaccurate, misleading and unfair.
Rights groups have accused the government of suppressing media freedom after police called in Al Jazeera journalists for questioning.
An arrest warrant was issued for Mr Md Rayhan Kabir, the Bangladeshi worker quoted in the news report as saying the government discriminated against undocumented foreign workers by arresting and jailing them during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Rayhan was arrested on Friday and will be expelled from the country, Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud, Malaysia’s director-general of immigration, said in a statement yesterday. “This Bangladeshi national will be deported and blacklisted from entering Malaysia forever,” Mr Khairul said.
He did not say why Mr Rayhan was arrested or whether he was suspected of committing a crime. Reuters could not reach the immigration department for comment.
Qatar-based Al Jazeera said it was disturbing that Mr Rayhan had been arrested “for choosing to speak up about some of the experiences of the voiceless and the vulnerable”.
Malaysia arrested hundreds of undocumented foreigners, including children and Rohingya refugees, when the country was under lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus. Activists have condemned the arrests as inhumane. Malaysian officials said they were necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.
Public opposition to migrant workers in the country has been growing, with some people accusing them of spreading the coronavirus and being a burden on government resources.
There are also growing concerns that the four-month-old administration of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is stifling dissent amid a series of clampdowns, an accusation it has denied. Malaysiakini, a local news portal, is facing a contempt case over readers’ comments.
Al Jazeera has said its staff and those interviewed in the documentary had faced abuse, death threats and the disclosure of their personal details on social media.