KUALA LUMPUR, July 25 – Malaysia arrested a Bangladeshi national who criticised the government over its treatment of migrant workers in a news report by broadcaster Al Jazeera, the government said on Saturday.
The July 3 report on Malaysia’s treatment of undocumented foreign workers during the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a backlash in the Southeast Asia nation, with several officials describing the report as being inaccurate, misleading and unfair.
Rights groups have accused the government of suppressing media freedom after Al Jazeera journalists were called in for questioning by the police.
An arrest warrant was issued for Md Rayhan Kabir, the Bangladeshi worker quoted in the news report as saying the government discriminated against undocumented foreign workers by arresting and jailing them during the pandemic.
Rayhan was arrested on Friday and will be expelled from the country, Immigration Director General Khairul Dzaimee Daud said in a statement on Saturday.
“This Bangladeshi national will be deported and blacklisted from entering Malaysia forever,” Khairul said.
He did not say why Rayhan was arrested or whether he was suspected of committing a crime. Reuters could not immediately reach the immigration department for further comment.
Qatar-based Al Jazeera did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Rayhan’s arrest.
Malaysia arrested hundreds of undocumented foreigners, including children and Rohingya refugees, when the country was under lockdown to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
Activists have condemned the arrests as inhumane. Malaysian officials have said they were necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.
Public opposition to migrant workers has been growing, with some accusing them of spreading the coronavirus and being a burden on government resources.
There are also growing concerns that the four-month old administration of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is stifling dissent amid a series of clampdowns, an accusation it has denied.
Malaysiakini, a local news portal, is facing a contempt case over readers’ comments.
Al Jazeera has said its staff and those interviewed in the documentary had faced abuse, death threats and the disclosure of their personal details on social media. (Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi and Joseph Sipalan; Editing by William Mallard)