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Malaysia arrests Bangladeshi worker criticising the government’s treatment of migrant workers

Malaysian authorities confirmed the arrest of a Bangladeshi worker who has been critical of the government’s treatment of migrant workers in a recent documentary by broadcaster Al Jazeera.

Mohammed Rayham Kabir has also had his work permit revoked and is to be expelled from the country after being quoted in the Qatar-based media outlet’s documentary on the detention of undocumented migrant workers during the recent lockdown. Malaysian authorities have refused to comment on the particular reasons behind his arrest or whether there was a suspicion of criminal activity.

Broadcasted on July 3rd, the documentary, “Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown”, focuses on the recent raids carried out in Kuala Lumpur by Malaysian government during the Covid-19 pandemic, in which several hundred migrant workers have been arrested and have been transported to detention camps.

The Deputy Director of the NGO’s Asian division, Phil Robertson, has stated on Twitter, “Hauling migrants away to crowded detention camps will increase Covid19, and prompt others to hide and refuse to cooperate.” The United Nations has also called for the release of children and vulnerable individuals from the detention camps in which the migrants are being held.


Government responses

Malaysian police have launched an investigation against the broadcaster upon claims of sedition, defamation and violation of the country's Communications and Multimedia Act. Several journalists who were involved in the documentary were subjected to police questioning on Friday 24 July. The police have also interviewed other journalists and activists who have spoken out on the matter, including Tashny Sukumaran, a correspondent for Hong Kong-based- South China Morning Post.

Defense Minister, Ismail Saabri has accused the documentary of being “deceptive and unethical,” adding that allegations of racism and discrimination against undocumented migrants were untrue. He has also demanded that Al Jazeera “apologize to all Malaysians.”

The Chief of Police, Abdul Hamid Bador, informed the state news agency that the operation was carried out “to ensure that they did not move around and spread the disease”. Images related to the raids show a significant number of enforcement agents dressed in full-body protective suits. Images and videos shared by Human Rights Watch also depict hundreds of people seated within close proximity of each other on the ground.

Al Jazeera has strongly rejected these allegations, insisting on "the professionalism, quality and impartiality of its journalism”, and has expressed concern over the recent developments.


Read more from Reuters, Al Jazeera, and BBC

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