Group in Australia slams arrest of journalists

Linton-Besser-and-Louis-ErogluPETALING JAYA: The detention of two Australian journalists was a deliberate move by the government to frighten the press, claims a group in Australia.

The Malaysian Progressives in Australia (MPOZ) said this in hitting out at the government over the arrest in Sarawak of Linton Besser and Louis Eroglu from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on March 12.

Besser and Eroglu were arrested after approaching Prime Minister Najib Razak during his visit to a mosque in Kuching to question him on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) issue.

The group said the reason for the arrest, given as “potential breaches of security protocol”, was “utterly unsubstantiated” and it felt the journalists should have just been given a verbal warning.

“Moreover, it does not do any justice to foreign journalists who barely know about local protocol.

“Detaining them, considering  laying criminal charges and seizing their travel documents are not only just an overkill to journalists, but a deliberate move by the government to create fear among the press to refrain themselves from questioning the regime.”

MPOZ said it seemed the Najib-led government was “aggressively” undermining press freedom and democracy although Besser and Eroglu only intended to approach Najib for an interview.

“We believe that arresting journalists who are simply carrying out their job is a violation of press freedom.”

MPOZ said as a United Nations member, Malaysia was obligated to adhere to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which underlines the right to freedom of opinion and expression, which includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers.

“As a group that advocates fair discussion of Malaysian political and social issues among Malaysian students in Australia, MPOZ is aware that often our individual rights and freedoms are more protected by the Australian government than our very own government, something that we think the Malaysian government should be ashamed of.”