The Malaysian authorities raided the office of Al Jazeera in Kuala Lumpur and two local broadcasters yesterday, as part of a probe over a documentary by the Qatar-based company that alleged mistreatment of foreign workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The offices of Astro and Unifi TV were raided by the police and government watchdog Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, police said.
It is believed that Astro and Unifi TV had broadcast the Al Jazeera documentary.
Al Jazeera said two computers were seized from its 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 Al Jazeera English managing director 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.
On July 3, Al Jazeera aired Locked Up In Malaysia’s Lockdown, which focused on the plight of thousands of undocumented migrants detained during raids carried out in areas under tight coronavirus lockdowns.
The documentary, which was critical of the Malaysian government’s move, sparked backlash online, while the Malaysian government decried the report as inaccurate, misleading and unfair.
This prompted the police to launch an investigation and a manhunt for Bangladeshi national Mohamad Rayhan Kabir, who was critical of the Malaysian government in the documentary. Malaysia’s Immigration Department said Mr Rayhan, 25, was arrested on July 25 and his work permit was revoked.
“This Bangladeshi national will be deported and blacklisted from entering Malaysia forever,” Immigration Department director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud said late last month.
There is rising anger in the country towards migrants and refugees, who are accused of spreading the coronavirus and taking jobs from locals hit hard by the pandemic. There are some 2.2 million registered foreign workers in Malaysia and an estimated two million more migrants who work in the country illegally.