Police raided the Al Jazeera Malaysia bureau on Tuesday and seized computers as part of a probe into the network’s documentary “Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” which highlighted the country’s treatment of undocumented migrant workers during the curfew.
Three broadcast centres in the capital belonging to Al Jazeera, Astro and Unifi TV were searched, Federal Police Criminal Investigation Department Director CP Huzir Mohammed said.
Astro is a private broadcasting network, while UnifiTV is a television streaming service owned by Malaysia’s telecommunications provider Telekom.
The raids were carried out in cooperation with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, Huzir said.
Computers seized in the raid will be sent to the commission for analysis, he said.
Police recorded witness statements that will be sent to the Attorney General’s office as part of the investigation, he added.
Al Jazeera immediately condemned the raid, saying it followed global condemnation of Malaysia’s treatment of undocumented migrant workers during the lockdown. The media outlet said it viewed the investigation as an attack not only on itself but on press freedom as a whole.
“Al Jazeera calls on the Malaysian authorities to cease this criminal investigation into our journalists,” said Giles Trendle, managing director of Al Jazeera English.
Trendle described the raid on the Malaysia bureau and the seizing of computers as a “troubling escalation” in the authorities’ crackdown on media freedom.
“This shows the lengths they are prepared to go to to try to intimidate journalists,” he added.
On July 3, Al Jazeera’s “101 East” current affairs program aired the documentary on the plight of Malaysia’s undocumented migrant workers under a movement control order imposed by the government.
Three weeks later, Mohamad Rayhan Kabir, a Bangladeshi national interviewed for the program, was arrested. Authorities said he would be “deported and blacklisted from entering Malaysia forever.”
Amnesty Malaysia also condemned the police raids, calling for migrant rights and freedom of expression to be protected.
“The government’s crackdown on migrants and refugees, as well as those who speak up in their defence, is meant to silence and intimidate, and should be condemned,” Amnesty said.