Australian journalists to be charged for obstructing public servant from discharging his duties in Kuching.
PETALING JAYA: Two Australian newsmen arrested on Saturday night in Kuching for aggressively trying to approach Prime Minister Najib Razak are expected to be charged today (Tuesday).
They are expected to be charged under Section 186 of the Penal code for obstructing a public servant from discharging his duties, theborneopost.com and abc.net.au news websites reported quoting police sources.
The two are reporter Linton Besser and cameraman Louie Eroglu, from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
They were said to be trying to interview Najib after he made an official visit to a mosque in Kota Sentosa, Kuching, on matters connected to 1MDB.
They are believed to have tried to cross a police security line to approach the prime minister.
ABC’s news website said the lawyer for the ABC pair, Albert Tang, said he received a call from Ng Ah lek, the superintendent of police for Padawan District, telling him to bring his clients to court at 8.30am (local time) so they could be charged.
“When asked who made the decision to institute the charge against my clients, he said it was the Attorney-General who made the decision,” Tang said.
He said normally those decisions were made by a local deputy public prosecutor.
“I suppose this is being regarded as a high-profile case, that is why the Attorney-General himself is making the decision,” he said.
It said Section 186 of the Malaysian Penal Code carries a maximum penalty of a RM10,000 fine and a two-year jail term.
In a statement, the ABC said it was “very concerned by the prospect of charges being laid in Malaysia against our journalists Linton Besser and Louie Eroglu, who have been working on assignment with Four Corners”.
“We are awaiting details of any proposed case and are taking legal advice on the next steps,” the broadcaster said.
“Linton and Louie have the full support of the ABC and we are working with all the relevant authorities to try to resolve this matter.”
ABC News director Gaven Morris has previously denied the allegations against his staff.
“I can tell you that at no time did our journalists obstruct or intend to obstruct any public servants in performance of their duties,” Morris said in a statement.
“They did not see a police line and do not believe they crossed one. They stopped filming and left the event as soon as they were asked. They fully cooperated with the police before and after their arrest.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has said Australia’s High Commissioner in Malaysia was in contact with the pair.