The Australian journalist and cameraman who were detained by the police on Saturday in Kuching after trying to ask Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak questions about a corruption scandal say they are both well.
ABC Four Corners journalist Linton Besser tweeted this morning via his handle @lb_online that they were grateful for the support they had received since their brush with the Malaysian authorities.
“Thanks for the kind messages from afar. As @johnnyturk says, it’s Sleepless in Sarawak. We’re both well and grateful for great ABC support,” he wrote.
Besser was referring to a remark by his colleague Louie Eroglu, who tweets via the handle @johnnyturk. Eroglu also posted the “Sleepless in Sarawak” tweet on his Twitter account this morning along with a photo of his equipment and other belongings.
Both men received replies of well wishes and messages of encouragement from friends following their tweets.
Besser and Eroglu had tried to approach Najib, who was on an official visit to the Darul Ehsan Mosque at Kampung Haji Baki, Kota Sentosa on Saturday.
According to Sarawak CID chief Dev Kumar M.M. Sree Shunmugan, the Australian journalists had crossed the security line and aggressively tried to approach Najib.
Najib reportedly did not respond to Besser’s questions about a “corruption scandal” and his security pushed the crew aside.
Police picked up the crew after they returned to their hotel. Their statements were recorded and they were released on police bail early Sunday morning.
Their passports were confiscated pending investigation and they are required to report to the police station on March 16.
They are being investigated under Section 186 of the Penal Code for obstructing a public servant in discharge of public function.
However, The Guardian quoting ABC news director Gaven Morris reported that Besser and Eroglu had been returned their passports.
He also confirmed that the duo had not been charged, and that ABC was in frequent contact with both men and their families.
“…They have legal and consular support on the ground. Although obviously not happy about this situation, they are both in good spirits and doing well.”
Morris also rejected any suggestion that the journalists had been out of line, saying they did not “obstruct or intend to obstruct any public servants in performance of their duties”.
He said they had not seen a police line and did not believe they had crossed one.
“They stopped filming and left the event as soon as they were asked. They were not detained at the time but some time later when police came to their hotel. They fully cooperated with the police before and after their arrest.
“We are doing everything we can to resolve this situation as quickly as possible. We are hopeful the police investigation will be concluded soon and Louie and Linton will be able to freely depart Malaysia.”
The Four Corners executive producer, Sally Neighbour, had also reportedly defended her crew on Twitter after the duo were accused of breaching security.
“There was no breach. In a democracy, journalists asking the PM questions is routine.”
The incident has since made international headlines, with Australia “deeply concerned” over the journalists’ arrests.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the issue would be raised with Putrajaya and consular support would be provided to the duo.
This latest incident has also raised further concerns about Malaysia’s “crackdown on the freedom of speech”. – March 14, 2016.