Malaysia: Police raid Al Jazeera and two local broadcasters

Malaysian police together with Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) raided global broadcaster Al Jazeera and the offices of two local broadcasters Astro and Unifi TV. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the raids and expresses its serious concerns regarding the ongoing probe into the global broadcaster and threats against media freedom in Malaysia.

Al Jazeera staff members arrive at the Bukit Aman police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on July 10, 2020. Credit: Mohd Rasfan/AFP

Police raided Al Jazeera’s office on Tuesday, August 4 and seized two computers following the announcement of a probe into Al Jazeera for alleged sedition, defamation and violation of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. The raid is a part of an ongoing investigation into the 101 East investigative report “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown” that focuses on alleged mistreatment of undocumented migrant workers during the coronavirus outbreak.

Critics including top government officials claimed the 25-minute episode was inaccurate and misleading. The investigation against Al Jazeera is being conducted under Section 500 of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. Al Jazeera has dismissed the claims and accusations against it as not credible.

The police executed search warrants from the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate Court and Sepang Magistrate Court in raiding the three broadcasters. Two computers have been seized and will be analysed by the MCMC. Police have also recorded additional witness’ statements. Outcome of the probe will be submitted to the office of attorney general.

In a statement, Al-Jazeera condemned the raid as a “troubling escalation”. "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," Giles Trendle, the managing director of Al Jazeera English, said.

The raids also involved Astro, which runs a satellite TV service, and Unifi Internet TV service. The two broadcasting companies offer Al Jazeera’s program.

Earlier, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said that Cabinet was committed to upholding press and individual freedom.

The IFJ said: The intimidation and harassment of Al Jazeera journalists and Malaysian TV networks is deeply troubling. IFJ urges the authorities to drop the charges, ensure journalists’ rights and recognise media freedom as the cornerstone of a democracy.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram