Malaysian police chief insists Al Jazeera probe ‘professional’

Authorities are investigating the news network’s program “Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown.” (AFP)
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Updated 05 August 2020

Malaysian police chief insists Al Jazeera probe ‘professional’

  • The government said the documentary tarnished the image of the country
  • Abdul Hamid said the investigation “will be very transparent”

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s police chief insisted Wednesday investigations into an Al Jazeera documentary are being conducted “professionally” and rejected concerns about worsening media freedom, a day after the broadcaster’s office was searched.
Authorities are investigating the news network’s program “Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” after the government was angered by its critical look at the treatment of migrant workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials on Tuesday searched the Qatar-based broadcaster’s Kuala Lumpur office and seized two computers, sparking fresh anger from Al Jazeera and rights groups and adding to concerns about media independence in Malaysia.
But the country’s Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador said the search by police and communications ministry officials was carried out “very professionally.”
“It was not a military kind of action taken by the police,” he told AFP in an interview.
He added that Al Jazeera staff were “informed earlier of our intent to be there. They were even asked which devices were used. They cooperated.”
The search came after seven Al Jazeera journalists were questioned by police last month in connection with the documentary.
Abdul Hamid said the probe would be wrapped up soon, after which the attorney-general will decide whether to bring charges.
But the government insists the documentary — which focused on alleged mistreatment of migrants when they were rounded up during a coronavirus lockdown in May — tarnished the country’s image.
Authorities say the round-up was necessary to protect the public from the virus.
Al Jazeera is being probed for alleged sedition, defamation and transmitting offensive content, but it has stood by the documentary and insists the reporting was impartial.
Abdul Hamid said the investigation “will be very transparent” and insisted journalists in Malaysia were still free to do their jobs.
But he also urged international media to “be responsible,” calling them not to “write something... that is inaccurate.”


Hong Kong journalists protest new accreditation rules

Updated 24 September 2020

Hong Kong journalists protest new accreditation rules

  • The rules outlined in a Tuesday letter from police have been criticized as a further erosion of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory’s once robust press freedoms
  • Only journalists registered with the Government News and Media Information Service or members of ‘internationally recognized and reputable’ foreign media will be recognized

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s professional journalism association on Thursday protested new rules restricting who can provide press coverage during demonstrations, saying the government has no right to determine who is or isn’t a reporter.
The rules outlined in a Tuesday letter from police have been criticized as a further erosion of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory’s once robust press freedoms since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law in June that has had a chilling effect on political speech.
Only journalists registered with the Government News and Media Information Service or members of “internationally recognized and reputable” foreign media outlets will be recognized as journalists during protests, according to the police letter.
That appears to undercut the authority of the Hong Kong Journalists Association and Hong Kong Press Photographers Association to vet candidates for membership and issue press cards, placing that right solely in the hands of government officials, as is the case in mainland China.
“Police cannot be permitted to use administrative means to screen only officially recognized media, thus undermining the fundamental rights of the people of Hong Kong,” the Hong Kong Journalists Association said in a statement.
In their letter, the police said their goal is to weed out troublemakers posing as journalists who they say disrupted police action against protesters over several months of sometimes violent anti-government demonstrations.
“Following the amendment, the definition of ‘media representatives’ will become clearer and unequivocal, allowing front-line officers to efficiently and swiftly verify the identity of media representatives so that facilitation can be provided without compromising police operational efficiency,” the police letter said.
The regulations leave it to the police to determine what media outlets are “internationally recognized and reputable” and could discriminate against freelancers and independent and student journalists, who often work alone with minimal equipment and infrastructure.
Hong Kong has dropped steadily in Reporters Without Borders annual World Press Freedom Index, falling seven places this year to 80.
Hong Kong’s press freedom “is already in retreat as a result of pressure from Beijing,” the group said, citing among cases the expulsion of Financial Times Asia editor Victor Mallet in October 2018 after he chaired an even at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong that was condemned by Beijing.