Malaysian authorities say they have arrested a Bangladeshi man who criticized on television the country’s treatment of undocumented migrants during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a documentary on Al Jazeera, Rayhan Kabir said the government discriminated against illegal foreign workers by arresting and imprisoning them.
The 25-year-old will now be deported.
Critics call the detentions of hundreds of migrants inhumane. Officials say the move was necessary to fight the virus.
Those arrested included children and Rohingya refugees, activists said. The detentions took place as Malaysia was locked out due to Covid-19.
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Police have opened an investigation into the documentary Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown, which aired on July 3, following complaints from officials and local media that it was “inaccurate, misleading and unfair,” the Qatari broadcaster said.
An arrest warrant was issued for Mr. Kabir – whose work permit was revoked after the show aired – and he was arrested on Friday.
“This Bangladeshi national will be deported and blacklisted so as not to enter Malaysia forever,” Immigration Director General Khairul Dzaimee Daud said in a statement, without explaining why Mr. Kabir was arrested or whether he was arrested. was suspected of having committed a crime.
The Bangladeshi Daily Star newspaper quoted Mr. Kabir as saying in a post before his arrest: “I did not commit any crime. I did not lie. I have only spoken of discrimination against migrants. I want the dignity of migrants and of my country to be guaranteed. I believe all migrants and Bangladesh will support me. ”
A group of 21 Bangladeshi civil society organizations demanded the release of Mr. Kabir, saying: “A media interview is not a crime and Rayhan Kabir did not commit any crime. ”
In a separate statement, Human Rights Watch said: “The [Malaysian] The government’s action sends a frightening message to the country’s many migrant workers: if you want to stay in Malaysia, don’t speak up, even if you’ve been mistreated. ”
Al Jazeera said Malaysian police have announced an investigation of its staff for sedition, defamation and violation of the country’s communications and multimedia law. He said they were the victims of “sustained online harassment”, including abusive messages and death threats.
The broadcaster said it “strongly refutes” the accusations made against the program and “defends the professionalism, quality and impartiality of its journalism”.
In another development, a Malaysian judge on Wednesday overturned a decision to channel 27 Rohingya refugees for illegal entry, their lawyer said. The case sparked an uproar from activists.
Malaysia does not recognize refugees and there are high levels of mistrust of those coming from abroad, often working as low paid laborers. Some have accused migrant workers of spreading the coronavirus and of being a drain on government resources.