That Al Jazeera interview where Najib lost his cool? It just won a UK award

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak speaks to Mary Ann Jolley on Al Jazeera’s 101 East show. — Picture courtesy of Al Jazeera
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak speaks to Mary Ann Jolley on Al Jazeera’s 101 East show. — Picture courtesy of Al Jazeera

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 28 — An interview last year where Datuk Seri Najib Razak repeatedly lost his cool while being grilled has won broadcaster Al Jazeera an award as “Interview of the Year”.

Al Jazeera’s 101 East programme announced that it was given the award in the 2019 edition of the UK’s Royal Television Society’s Television Journalism Awards.

101 East is thrilled to announce we’ve been awarded Interview of the Year at the prestigious Royal Television Society Awards in London. Watch Mary Ann Jolley’s interview with former Malaysia PM Najib Razak here: aje.io/najib,” the programme wrote on its official Facebook page.

The other two nominees for the same category were those from two UK broadcasters: Channel 4 News with Max Mosley ITN for Channel 4 and ITV News with Sir Cliff Richard ITN for ITV.

On the website for the RTS Television Journalism Awards 2019, the jury noted that all three nominees for “Interview of the Year” category were “great examples of the interviewer’s craft”.

“But one interview stood out for its courage, tenacity and sheer unadulterated watchability — Malaysia: Najib Speaks.

“Although the story focused on an issue few would have known about prior to the interview, this did not detract from the viewer’s ability to understand the jaw-dropping venality of the interviewee,” the jury said.

“The interviewer’s forensic approach was compelling, her knowledge formidable and her ability to combine persistence with grace quite extraordinary,” it added when describing Jolley.

The Television Journalism Awards, which has been given out by the RTS annually since 1997, is said to recognise “creative and excellent journalism by organisations whose broadcasts are transmitted on a UK-based platform, or who create online video content from a UK production base”.

The RTS has its roots as the Television Society which was founded in 1927, and which was granted its royal title in 1966 with the Prince of Wales becoming its patron in 1997.

The 25 minutes-odd video clip of the interview which was posted on Al Jazeera English’s official Youtube page has over one million views and 11,000 likes at the time of writing.

Malay Mail has written about the award-winning interview, where Najib among other things spoke about fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho and the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, and even said it was a good thing that Jolley was deported from Malaysia previously when he was in power.

Najib had also in the interview made claims about the funding for his stepson Riza Aziz’s film production company Red Granite Pictures which produced the Hollywood movie The Wolf of Wall Street, as well as a 22-carat pink diamond pendant linked to his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor and the alleged Middle East culture of giving expensive gifts.

Najib later said he lost his cool when Jolley persisted in asking him about the high-profile murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, while Jolley later expressed surprise that Najib was allegedly not more prepared for the interview.