The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today joined its affiliates the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), Australia, and the National Union of Journalists, Peninsular Malaysia (NUJM) in condemning the detention and arrest of an Australian TV crew in Kuching, Malaysia on Saturday March 12. The IFJ, MEAA and NUJM have called for all charges to be dropped against the crew and any bans on movement lifted.
Reporter Linton Besser and camera operator Louie Eroglu were detained on Saturday evening and then later released by local police after an attempt to question the Malaysian Prime Minister, Nabij Razak, earlier in the day regarding a corruption scandal. The two media workers, who work for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) weekly news program, Four Corners, were arrested under the Malaysian Penal Code, Section 186 for obstructing a public servant in discharge of a public function.
According to the ABC, the crew was detained after taking part in a political “walkabout” in Kampung Haji Baki where Besser attempted question the prime minister about the ‘political donation’ of RM2.6 billion (USD6.3 million) deposited into his personal bank accounts in 2013. According to local media, Prime Minister Najib did not respond to the questions and his security pushed the crew aside. Later police picked up the two Australian media workers and their local fixer, Edgar Ong, after they returned to their hotel. They were detained for six hours before being released on bail without charge. Their passports were retained until today but they remain banned from leaving the country pending a review by the Malaysian Attorney-General’s chambers.
In 2015, Australian journalist Mary Ann Jolley was deported from Malaysia following her investigation into the same corruption scandal.
NUJM secretary-general, Schave de Rozario said: “We seek for freedom of the press and the ethical right of journalists to seek the truth. Malaysia wants to be a developed nation but still adhere to undemocratic practices. We await the decision from the police and urge them drop all charges.”
MEAA CEO, Paul Murphy said: “We welcome the return of passports to Linton Besser and Louie Eroglu. Now Malaysian authorities should restore their right to free movement. No charges should be laid for the simple reason that journalism is not a crime.”
The IFJ has monitored a tightening grip on the media by the Malaysian government in recent years to silence critical voices as well as media workers. As the voice of journalists globally, the IFJ joins NUJM and MEAA in calling for all charges against Besser and Eroglu to be dropped and the ban on movement lifted.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
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