PETALING JAYA: Al Jazeera has strongly rejected accusations by the government that its report on the treatment of illegal immigrants during the movement control order (MCO) was inaccurate, misleading and unfair.
The international news channel said it stands by its professionalism, quality and impartiality of its journalism, noting its reporting contained views and experiences of a wide range of people from different backgrounds.
The Qatari-owned news agency also claimed that numerous attempts to obtain the government’s view on the matter, including by requesting for interviews with senior government ministers and officials, were rejected.
“Repeated requests for interviews were not accepted,” the agency said in a statement last night.
“Al Jazeera also sought to attend the Defence Minister’s (Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob) press conferences, but were told only state media could attend.
“Despite the government’s refusal to be interviewed, Al Jazeera still produced a balanced film by including comments made by the Defence Minister at two press conferences,” it added.
Ismail Sabri had on Monday slammed Al Jazeera and demanded an apology for alleging Malaysia practised discriminatory treatment of illegal immigrants during the MCO in its 25-minute documentary titled “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown”.
“The wild accusations they made against Malaysia are inappropriate, of ill-intention, and without facts,” he had said.
He said Al Jazeera had also accused the government of being racist for arresting undocumented foreigners, that foreigners were unfairly placed behind barbed wires, and that foreign children were handcuffed during immigration raids.
The news agency however pointed out that the events it captured in real-time, including immigration raids, were widely reported by many other media outlets.
Al Jazeera also expressed deep concern that its staff were now subject to police investigation, claiming this was against democracy, and that they also faced sustained online harassment, with the reporters being targeted with abusive messages and death threats.
“The personal details of current and former staff have been published online, in a serious breach of privacy which could potentially expose them to great risk both now and in the future,” it said.
The agency added that it was also worried about the safety of those interviewed in the documentary, who are similarly subjected to abusive online harassment.
“We call upon the Malaysian authorities to desist from initiating any criminal investigation into our professional, impartial journalism.
“Al Jazeera English is prepared to host a representative of the Malaysian government to respond to the matters raised in the documentary,” it said.