The FCC Press Freedom Committee issued a statement in March that condemned the arrest and subsequent deportation of a television crew from Australia’s ABC Four Corners after they tried to question Prime Minister Najib Razak over an alleged corruption scandal.
Reporter Linton Besser and camera operator Louie Eroglu were arrested in Kuching, after approaching Najib on the street. Although they were deported, there were no charges. They were initially heldfor “failing to comply with police instructions not to cross the security line,” according to a Malaysian police statement cited by AFP.
The programme’s executive producer Sally Neighbour denied the crew had committed any offence and said on Twitter that the arrest was related to the crew’s reporting of corruption allegations involving Najib.
This is not the first instance of official intimidation of foreign media reporting on the 1MDB scandal, while domestic media outlets who dared to cover bribery allegations against Najib have have been targeted.
At the same time, Malaysian Insider a leading Malaysian news website that was blocked by the government following critical coverage of Najib announced it was shutting down.
The FCC urges Malaysian authorities to allow all journalists to carry out their duties in the country without fear of arrest, threats and abuse. Malaysia is ranked 147th out 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, lower than Myanmar and Bangladesh, a pitiful reflection of curbs on media freedom in the Southeast Asia democracy.
Only by realising the value of a free and unfettered media will Malaysia’s leaders be able to dispel such allegations of corruption and win the confidence of the international community. We urge the authorities to desist from harassing bona fide foreign correspondents working in the country.