Astro, Unifi TV raided too over Al Jazeera documentary

Alyaa Alhadjri
·3-min read
Astro, Unifi TV raided too over Al Jazeera documentary
Astro, Unifi TV raided too over Al Jazeera documentary

• UPDATED 10.35PM | Added Bukit Aman CID director Huzir Mohamed’s statement regarding the raids.

Bukit Aman has confirmed the police have conducted joint raids with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission against the offices of Astro and Unifi TV, in addition to that for the Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera.

The raids are a part of an ongoing investigation into the "101 East" episode that highlighted alleged mistreatment of undocumented migrants in Malaysia.

In a statement today, Bukit Aman CID director Huzir Mohamed said police have executed search warrants granted by the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate Court and Sepang Magistrate Court against the three broadcasters.

He said it has seized computers for analysis by MCMC and recording additional witness’ statements during the raid.

“The findings of the investigation will be submitted to the attorney-general’s office in the near future.

“The police emphasizes that this action is done in accordance with the law. No individual nor entity will escape action if it has clearly violated laws that are in force in Malaysia,” he said.

For the record, Astro runs a satellite TV service while Unifi TV runs an internet TV service. Both services offer programming from Al Jazeera, which has a bureau office in Kuala Lumpur.

Earlier today, Al Jazeera has confirmed that its Kuala Lumpur office was raided this morning.

Al Jazeera's management based in Qatar condemned the raid and described it as an attack not only on itself but also on press freedom as a whole.

"Al Jazeera calls upon the Malaysian authorities to cease this criminal investigation into our journalists," said Giles Trendle, the managing director of Al Jazeera English.

"Conducting a raid on our office and seizing computers is a troubling escalation in the authorities’ crackdown on media freedom and shows the lengths they are prepared to take to try to intimidate journalists," he said in a statement. 

Trendle added that Al Jazeera stands by its journalists and their reporting.

"Our staff did their jobs and they’ve got nothing to answer for or apologise for. Journalism is not a crime," he stressed.

In an immediate response, human rights group Amnesty International’s Malaysian chapter tweeted that the raid was an attempt to silence critics.

“The government's crackdown on migrants and refugees, as well as on those who speak up in their defence, is clearly meant to silence and intimidate and should be condemned.

“Protect migrants. Protect freedom of expression,” it urged.

Malaysiakini earlier reported that at least two uniformed personnel and five others in plainclothes had raided the office on Level 27, G Tower, and seized several devices believed to be used in the production of the 25-minute documentary, "Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown".

Al Jazeera in its statement confirmed that two computers were seized during the raid. 

Al Jazeera staff leaving Bukit Aman after questioning (file pix)
Al Jazeera staff leaving Bukit Aman after questioning (file pix)

Previously, the broadcaster expressed concerns over the harassment faced by its staff due to the backlash over the documentary. 

When contacted, lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik confirmed that his team was present during the raid.

A source from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said questions on the matter should be directed to the police.

Bukit Aman CID deputy director (investigations/legal) Mior Faridalathrash Wahid confirmed the raid.

"Yes, at 11.30am today, the Classified Crime Investigation Unit together with a team from MCMC," he told Malaysiakini.

It is understood that the raiding team had spent around one and a half hours at the premise.

"Same as reported earlier," Mior said when quizzed on details of investigations that prompted the raid.

Earlier last month, Mior reportedly said police had begun an investigation into reports on an alleged attempt by Al Jazeera to tarnish Malaysia’s image through a documentary on how the country treated undocumented migrants in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The investigation followed a report made by the Immigration Department at the Precinct 7 Police Station in Putrajaya, he added.

"We have opened investigation papers under Section 500 of the Penal Code and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998," Mior had told Bernama