Not too late to present your side of Al Jazeera reportAmbiga tells ministers

09-Jul-2020 Intellasia | Malaysiakini | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Former National Human Rights Society (Hakam) president Ambiga Sreenevasan said it is “not too late” for the relevant ministers to present their sides to claims made by Al Jazeera in a contentious documentary.

In a tweet, Ambiga (above) pointed out that the international news organisation had claimed to have sought the responses of Defence minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Home minister Hamzah Zainuddin and their deputies, prior to airing the report.

However, their requests were allegedly not entertained.

Al Jazeera in a 25-minute documentary aired on July 5, titled Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown, criticised Malaysia in its handling of undocumented migrants during the movement control order (MCO) enforced to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It was reported that apparently relevant ministers refused to be interviewed by Al Jazeera. Pity isn’t it since that would have been the best opportunity to present their side.

“It’s not too late. They can still do it,” said the former member of the Institutional Reforms Committee under the previous government and Bersih chairperson.

She made the posting in response to a tweet by Housing and Local government minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, who shared a compilation of netisens’ comments criticising the documentary, which is now the subject of a police probe.

“The government also seeks for Al Jazeera to apologise to all Malaysians over the inaccurate report,” the minister tweeted.

Her tweet echoed the call for an apology by Senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob (above), who labelled the documentary as “unethical” and denied that the government had been racist in handling undocumented migrants.

Controversy immediately erupted over claims aired on Al Jazeera’s 101 East programme that it misrepresented facts.

Among others, it deemed the immigration raids “military-style”, alleged that minors were handcuffed and migrants were housed under cramped conditions.

The documentary also questioned if the crackdown was the “practical reality of dealing with the pandemic or is it racism?”

The report included interviews with migrants, NGOs, civil society organisations, and trade associations.

While not addressing the claim that Al Jazeera’s request for comment had not been entertained, Ismail responded later that the Perikatan Nasional government had not specifically targeted migrants, but everyone located in those areas specifically hit hard by Covid-19.

“It is not true to accuse us of being racist in our action as we acted according to the law. The Immigration Department nabbed the undocumented migrants based on the Immigration Act,” he had said.

Hamzah had since maintained that the authorities acted within the law, as well as according to the people’s wishes, while Health minister Dr Adham Baba also denied the racism claim.

Aside from police investigations, the authorities are also searching for a Bangladesh national who was interviewed on the show.

Social media anger over the report continued to be fuelled, with Twitterjaya calling for the reporters and the interviewee to be deported.

Some have even taken to doxing the interviewee by revealing his purported known locations and place of work.

The National Security Council (NSC), which is coordinating the response to the virus outbreak, has also issued a warning that migrants risked having their immigration passes cancelled if they make “inaccurate statements” against the country.


Category: Malaysia

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