IPOH, Aug 1 — A journalist with The Diplomat current affairs magazine was stunned when she was hauled in for police questioning today while documenting the struggles of the Temiar Orang Asli in Kampung Sungai Papan, Gerik.
Alexandra Radu said she was taken to the Gerik district police station at about 10am today while she was talking to the indigenous villagers about the blockade they set up to prevent loggers from felling trees on their naive customary land.
“First the police told me that they are arresting me, but later they said that they only took me to the police station for documentation purposes.
“I’m still here at the police station,” she told Malay Mail when contacted this afternoon.
Radu, a Romanian, said that she went to the Orang Asli village on her own, not on the invitation of anyone or group.
“I went there to cover the life of the Orang Asli there and their blockade issue,” she said.
The Diplomat is a popular Tokyo-based news organisation covering current affairs in the Asia-Pacific.
Gerik police chief Supt Ismail Che Isa clarified that Radu was not arrested but taken in only to record her statement as a witness to the demolition of the blockade.
“When the logging company demolished the blockade created by the Orang Asli, the journalist was there. That is why we brought her to the police station for documentation.
“She was not arrested,” he told Malay Mail in a WhatsApp text message.
Kampung Sungai Papan is in the news after three of its Orang Asli villagers were arrested on July 20 for incitement, after several blockades were erected to prevent loggers from accessing 42 hectares area of their customary land.
Perak police chief Datuk Razarudin Husain said the trio aged between 22 and 38 were released the same day after their statements were recorded and that they would be referred to the Department of Orang Asli Development (Jakoa).
Razarudin previously said the Perak government had approved logging in the area one year ago.
Environmental group Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (PEKA) has criticised the approved logging as encroachment on Orang Asli customary land.
In a statement earlier today, PEKA said it was shocked the police had called in an international journalist for questioning over her coverage of the Orang Asli issue, noting that the authorities had not previously acted on its past complaints on the alleged encroachment.
“At the moment, we are clueless on the status of this person and we hope there would not be any attempt to curb the media's right to information and the public’s right to know any matter pertaining to Orang Asli in this regard,” it said in a statement.
PEKA urge the federal government to intervene in the interest of Orang Asli rights.