Bangkok, Jul 10 (efe-epa).- Malaysian Police questioned six Al Jazeera journalists on Friday over a documentary about the treatment of undocumented migrant workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Police summoned the journalists to their Kuala Lumpur headquarters on charges of alleged sedition, defamation and violation of the country’s Communications and Multimedia Act.
On 3 July Al Jazeera released a short film titled Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown investigating the arrests of thousands of undocumented foreign workers in an operation supposedly aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, state news agency Bernama reported.
“Al Jazeera strongly refutes these charges and stands by the professionalism, quality and impartiality of its journalism,” the Qatar-based network said in a statement.
Lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik said his clients will cooperate fully with police investigations.
“The documentary as depicted was balanced and fair. It catered views from different sides. In fact, attempts were made to seek government response. But these responses did not come,” the lawyer told reporters outside Bukit Aman on Friday.
Part of the 101 East documentary strand, the 25-minute episode addressed the plight of migrants and refugees during the Malaysian Covid-19 lockdown in early May.
After several police raids, the documentary claims migrants were locked up in detention centers.
International rights groups including Malaysian NGO Tenaganita and Human Rights Watch denounced the move at the time arguing that confining people in small spaces increased the risk of contagion.
Since its broadcast, the Al Jazeera documentary has been branded as inaccurate, misleading and unfair by various government officials and, according to the Bernama agency, the Police have received up to five complaints since it was aired.
“As an international media organization, Al Jazeera should stop broadcasting the documentary and apologize to the Malaysian people,” Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Al Jazeera has defended the impartiality of the documentary in a statement published on Thursday in which the network says it is concerned over the safety of its journalists.
“Al Jazeera also has grave concerns about the sustained online harassment its staff are facing. Reporters have been targeted with abusive messages and death threats.
“Charging journalists for doing their jobs is not the action of a democracy that values free speech. Journalism is not a crime,” the statement said. EFE-EPA