Police say had warrants to search Al Jazeera, Astro, and UnifiTV premises over migrant documentary probe

Bukit Aman Criminal Investigations Department director Datuk Huzir Mohamed speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur June 30, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Bukit Aman Criminal Investigations Department director Datuk Huzir Mohamed speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur June 30, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 4 — This morning’s raid on Al Jazeera’s Kuala Lumpur office was conducted only after police received a search warrant to facilitate investigation into the news agency’s controversial documentary Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown.

Bukit Aman Criminal Investigations Department Director Commissioner Datuk Huzir Mohamed said the search warrants for three locations were granted to the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) by two separate Magistrates’ Courts.

“On August 4, 2020, PDRM took action and enforced search warrants that were issued by the Kuala Lumpur Magistrates’ Court and the Sepang Magistrates’ Court in Selangor to search three separate locations in the capital involving Al Jazeera, Astro, and UnifiTV broadcast stations,” he said in a statement tonights.

Huzir said the computers and other confiscated items taken from the raided premises will be sent to MCMC for an analysis.

“Statements of witnesses were also recorded during the raids to assist investigations,” he said, adding that the investigation papers would be sent to the Attorney-General’s Chambers soon.

Several local news agencies, including Malay Mail had earlier reported the authorities raiding Al Jazeera’s KL office at Level 27 of GTower, near the iconic Petronas Twin Towers in the city centre at 11.30am, taking away several devices.

Al Jazeera later affirmed the search and also criticised the action as an escalation in Putrajaya’s intimidation of journalists.

The Doha-based news agency said two of its computers were seized by the authorities in the raid and expressed grave concern for its local staff who are being investigated under several laws, including sedition, defamation and violation of Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Act.

Prio to today’s raid, police recorded the statements of at least seven Al Jazeera staff at the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman on July 10.

Malaysian government officials had accused Al Jazeera of damaging the country’s reputation through an inaccurate portrayal of undocumented migrant workers in a 25-minute documentary posted on YouTube on June 3 during a three-month movement control order that sought to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Ministers, the Immigration Department, and the police had all reacted to the documentary, with Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob demanding an apology from the news agency.

Md Rayhan Kabir, a Bangladeshi national featured on the production subsequently had his work permit revoked, is set to be deported and is barred from ever re-entering Malaysia.

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