Journalist faces Malaysian police grilling over migrant coverage – dpa international


A near-deserted street in Kuala Lumpur during Malaysia's lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

A near-deserted street in Kuala Lumpur during Malaysia’s lockdown (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s communications and multimedia minister said on Sunday that he will ask officials not to “act against” a journalist facing police action for an article reporting on the arrests of hundreds of migrant workers.

“I may not like ur piece but I will defend ur right to write it,” wrote Saifuddin Abdullah, responding on Twitter to a post by journalist Tashny Sukumaran – in which she said she has been summoned for questioning about a Friday report in the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper.

On Sunday, which is World Press Freedom Day, Saifuddin said he is “looking into” a telecommunications law under which the journalist will be questioned and which non-governmental mouthpiece Reporters Without Borders brands part of “a draconian arsenal” of codes undermining media freedom.

A group of 586 undocumented foreign workers were rounded up by police on Friday during an operation to test around 3,000 migrants for Covid-19.

The government defended the raid, but on Sunday the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia said it was “appalled.”

More than 23,000 people have been arrested for alleged breaches of a strictly policed coronavirus lockdown imposed on March 18.

With the economy reeling, Malaysia’s government announced on Friday that restrictions will be eased on Monday.

Many businesses can reopen, with restaurants allowed to serve dine-in customers. People are also permitted to exercise outdoors.

Saturday and Sunday saw new confirmed Covid-19 cases rebound by more than 100 per day, double the average of the previous 10 days and prompting more than 420,000 people to sign an online petition slamming the loosening as premature.

Malaysia’s Health Ministry has reported 6,298 Covid-19 cases and 113 related deaths.

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