Despite online threats and investigation, Al Jazeera’s '101 East' team continues to use KL as home base

'101 East' is a weekly current affairs programme and their documentary Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown put Al Jazeera in the crosshairs of Putrajaya. — Reuters pic
'101 East' is a weekly current affairs programme and their documentary Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown put Al Jazeera in the crosshairs of Putrajaya. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 25 — Al Jazeera English managing editor Giles Trendle said despite everything, Kuala Lumpur remains the home base of its 101 East team even though they cover the entire Asia Pacific region.

101 East is a weekly current affairs programme and their documentary Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown put Al Jazeera in the crosshairs of Putrajaya. 

“We have been in Malaysia since 2006, since Al Jazeera English started 14 years ago. We think it’s a great country. We report on Asia and the Asia Pacific, using Malaysia as our base.

“Obviously, the team deploys and goes out to cover the rest of Asia... Kuala Lumpur is the home of this particular programme. This puts Malaysia at the heart of the regional news while reinforcing the country as a global media hub,” he said in a telephone interview from Doha yesterday.

On July 3, the documentary about undocumented migrant workers in the nation’s capital being rounded up by the authorities during the movement control order (MCO) was aired.

Putrajaya claimed that it was not fair coverage even though authorities had refused to be interviewed for the documentary.

“The team approached the Home minister, as well as two of his deputies and the DG of Immigration and the Federal Territories Minister. It was either ignored or declined.

“They also approached the Defence Minister and asked if they could attend his press conferences but were not given permission,” said Trendle.

The police and Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) believe that the documentary contains seditious elements and Al Jazeera is being investigated under the Sedition Act, the Penal Code and the Communications and Multimedia Act.

Trendle also confirmed that the team’s media accreditation passes have not been revoked by the Communications and Multimedia Ministry.

Police report lodged over death threats and online abuse

Al Jazeera English is worried about the safety of its team though as they have received death threats and had their personal details exposed online.

“We are very concerned over our staff facing death threats, doxing and online harassment. We have filed police reports regarding the threats.

“We were encouraged by the statement made by the police chief who assured our staff that they will be safe but we are deeply concerned about some of the abuse and threats against them online.

“We are also concerned about the interviewees who have faced sustained pressure from authorities and online community,” said Trendle.

At the same time, Trendle said his 101 East team does not have any hard feelings against the police after they were summoned for questioning, acknowledging that the police were merely doing their job.

“We are concerned about journalists being criminally investigated. However, they were treated well.

“One did undergo sustained questioning but was aware that the police were only doing their job and no one was mistreated,” said Trendle.

Finas never demanded license to film over the past 14 years

Regarding the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia’s (Finas) claims that the international network did not apply for a filming license for the documentary, Trendle said that over the past 14 years Finas has never demanded they apply for a license.

“Al Jazeera and 101 East have been operating out of Malaysia since 2006. That’s 14 years. It’s a weekly current affairs programme. And in that time, 35 of the programmes in all the 14 years have been in Malaysia covering a wide range of topics.

“We have done programmes on wildlife trafficking, 1MDB, disappearance of Flight MH370. We also did a programme on Malaysia’s first professional female martial artist who is a great role model.

“So, we have done many different programmes. The authorities know we produce our programmes here and we have never been asked before for a license and never subjected for investigation by Finas,” Trendle pointed out.

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