The arrest of two Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) journalists in Kuching last Saturday is a warning to the media “not to get too smart” over 1Malaysia Development Bhd’s (1MDB) alleged financial scandals and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s RM2.6 billion donation, Sarawak PKR says.
“Putrajaya is sending a warning to journalists with the arrests. It’s to instil a fear in them, both foreign and local journalists, not to be too clever in asking questions on those issues,” said its chief, Baru Bian.
Baru said he had been asked to “be on standby” to provide legal assistance to arrested journalists said their detention was “vindictive” and a bad reflection on the government.
“The offences the two journalists allegedly committed were unclear. For them to be detained, their alleged offences must be very clear.”
ABC Four Corners journalist Linton Besser and Louie Eroglu were trying to solicit comments from Najib at an event at Kampung Haji Baki in Kuching on the corruption allegations against him.
They were detained late Saturday night at their hotel.
Baru asked if journalists’ work of trying to obtain comments from the prime minister was now a criminal offence.
Besser and Eroglu were picked up near midnight from their hotel in the city centre and brought to the Kota Sentosa police
Sarawak CID chief Dev Kumar in a statement yesterday that the journalists’ alleged offence was that they “had crossed a security line and aggressively tried to approach Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak”.
Kumar said they were “arrested for failing to comply with police instructions not to cross the security line”.
But Baru asked why they were not arrested on the spot then but later, at their hotel room.
Baru said Putrajaya would lose all its credibility if it decides to press charges against the newsmen.
“Not a wise thing to do. But whatever they do, they must account for it.”
Besser and Eroglu are currently on police bail, which expires on Wednesday. – March 14, 2016.