Malaysian police Friday questioned five Australian journalists from Al Jazeera over a documentary about the plight of migrants which authorities have denounced as inaccurate, as the broadcaster expressed shock at the probe.
The investigation into the Qatar-based network’s program has added to concerns about a widening media crackdown in Malaysia after a scandal-plagued party came to power earlier this year.
In addition to the Al Jazeera case, the head of a leading news portal has been accused of contempt of court while a health news site’s editor is being probed over an article.
The documentary, “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” looked at the detention of undocumented foreigners during a coronavirus lockdown, as well as the plight of other members of the migrant community.
But the government decried it as misleading and inaccurate, and police are now investigating the broadcaster for breaking laws against sedition, defamation and transmitting offensive content.
On Friday six Al Jazeera staff members were called in for questioning by police in Kuala Lumpur over the documentary made for “101 East,” a weekly show featuring in-depth investigations.
Five of the six are Australian, according to Australian union the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.
The staff – including a bureau chief, correspondent, an executive producer, a producer and a cameraman – were accompanied by their lawyers as they arrived at the station, where a media scrum was waiting.
Lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik told reporters that the journalists “refute all the charges.”
“There was no intent by Al Jazeera to create any mischief,” he said.