Malaysia’s probe into Al Jazeera undermines freedom of speech: CIJ

Communications and Multimedia Minister, Saifuddin Abdullah speaking at a conference with Finas in June. Photo: Saifuddin Abdullah /Facebook
Communications and Multimedia Minister, Saifuddin Abdullah speaking at a conference with Finas in June. Photo: Saifuddin Abdullah /Facebook

The Centre for Independent Journalism has condemned Malaysia for its plans to review Al Jazeera’s media accreditation and license after the media company published a documentary on migrant workers under lockdown in Malaysia due to COVID-19. 

The Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown documentary had depicted how migrant workers in Malaysia were treated during the outbreak. Most of them were under lockdown in Malaysia’s emergency zones, where dozens of COVID-19 cases were reported. 

The documentary published three weeks ago sparked backlash from the Malaysian government, who accused it of spreading misinformation. 

The Communications and Multimedia Ministry said yesterday it would look into whether the 26-minute documentary was licensed by the National Film Development (FINAS) before it began production, or risk having their accreditation revoked. 

The journalism center, or CIJ, said that the ministry was undermining the freedom of the press in Malaysia and should have simply clarified the inaccuracies it alleged the documentary had contained. 

Labeling the documentary as “misleading” was counterproductive and irresponsible, it added. 

“The onus is on the government to list down all facts stated in the documentary that they disagree with and to counter it with information, reliable and verifiable data and statistics,” CIJ executive director, Wathshlah G. Naidu, said in a statement.

The documentary had been on the receiving end of backlash by politicians and regular Malaysians since it was published, with many claiming that the Qatari media company had failed to provide an accurate reflection of the nation’s COVID-19 efforts.

“For Finas it is simple, that is, whether you have a licence or not. It’s ok if there is a license but if there is no license, it is then considered an offense,” Minister Saifuddin Abdullah told reporters yesterday.

“With the revocation of accreditation facilities, its (Al Jazeera’s) crew are not free to go anywhere without the (media) cards issued by the Information Department,” he added.

Other stories to check out:

Malaysia’s keyboard warriors in online war with Al Jazeera over COVID-19 documentary

Hannah Yeoh under probe again over ‘seditious’ child marriage statement she said she didn’t write

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