Malaysia: Authorities reject Al Jazeera journalist visas as intimidation steps up

Malaysian authorities have refused to renew the work visas of two of Al Jazeera’s journalists. It follows a police raid of the global broadcaster’s office in Kuala Lumpur on August 4. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) remains critical the heavy-handed actions of the authorities and calls for respect of media reporting.

A partial view of Al-Jazeera's newsroom in Doha on September 19, 2019. Credit: Karim Jaafar/AFP

Al Jazeera English managing director, Giles Trendle, confirmed that Malaysian authorities refused to renew the work visas of Australian journalists Drew Ambrose and Jenni Henderson. The two are among seven Al Jazeera journalists being investigated for sedition, defamation and violation of the Communications and Multimedia Act.

The visa rejection comes after police, together with Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) raided Al Jazeera’s office in Kuala Lumpur four days ago. 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.

Malaysian authorities have continued to probe Al Jazeera over its 101 East investigative report that highlighted treatment of undocumented migrant workers amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Police have summoned Al Jazeera’s team involved in production of the program. Mohamad Rayhan Kabir, a Bangladeshi man featured in Al Jazeera’s report, was arrested and is to be deported. Al Jazeera Malaysia staff have since been subjected to online attacks, including death threats and doxing.

Al Jazeera has urged authorities to cease the criminal investigation into its journalists, reiterating that it stands with the team and their reporting. In its statement, Al Jazeera said: the staff “did their jobs and they’ve got nothing to answer for or apologise for”.

The Al Jazeera case is just one of a rising number of media freedom attacks in the country since the Pakatan Harapan coalition government was forced from power in February and replaced by a new ruling coalition government comprising the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

The IFJ said:“The authorities in Malaysia must stop treating the media and journalism as a crime. Al Jazeera’s journalists endeavoured to seek inputs from the government in producing this program but were denied. This is a clear case of payback to silence critical reporting but common sense and media freedom must prevail.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

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

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