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Malaysian police raid Al Jazeera offices amid probe into report on migrant workers

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Broadcaster Al Jazeera said Malaysian police had raided its office in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, amid an investigation into a programme it aired on the country’s treatment of undocumented foreign workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The July 3 programme, entitled “Locked up in Malaysia’s lockdown”, prompted a backlash in the Southeast Asia nation, with authorities branding the report 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 and an investigation was opened into alleged sedition, defamation and violation of a communications law.

Malaysian police seized two computers from the Al Jazeera office during Tuesday’s raid, the Qatar-based broadcaster said in a statement.

“Conducting a raid on our office and seizing computers is a troubling escalation in the authorities’ crackdown on media freedom and shows the lengths they are prepared to take to try to intimidate journalists,” Al Jazeera said.

Al Jazeera said it stood by its report and called on authorities to drop the criminal investigation.

The police said in a statement the raid was conducted along with Malaysia’s communications regulator, which will carry out “further analysis” on the seized computers. Statements were taken from additional witnesses during the raid.

“No individuals or entities can escape action if they clearly violate any laws enforced in Malaysia,” it said.

Malaysia arrested hundreds of undocumented foreigners, including children and Rohingya refugees, after the country imposed a lockdown to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

Human rights activists have condemned the arrests as inhumane. Malaysian officials have said they were necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.

Activists have voiced concern that the five-month-old administration of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is stifling dissent amid a series of clampdowns, an accusation it has denied.

Last month, authorities arrested a Bangladeshi man who criticised the government’s treatment of migrant workers in the Al Jazeera programme.

Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi and Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Gareth Jones

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