Minister demands apology from Al Jazeera

No new deaths recorded since June 16, Covid-19’s death toll remains at 121

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ pic by AFP

SENIOR Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has demanded an apology from Qatari news channel Al Jazeera after it featured a documentary describing Malaysia as “xenophobic” in its treatment of undocumented migrant workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The documentary “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown” on Al Jazeera’s 101 East has drawn criticism from the public, with many accusing the report as distorted and biased.

The 25-minute film, which was uploaded on YouTube last Friday, has received over 772,000 views and 196,000 dislikes. Its comment section has been disabled following the backlash.

Ismail Sabri described the accusations in the documentary as misleading, flawed and baseless. The report featured interviews with both documented and undocumented migrants, non-governmental organisations, civil societies and trade associations.

“Their wild claims against Malaysia are inappropriate, made of ill-intention and without facts,” he said at a briefing in Putrajaya yesterday.

“As an international media outlet, Al Jazeera should stop making such (baseless) reports and apologise to all Malaysians.”

The minister also said allegations that children had been handcuffed during the raids were a lie.

“This is not true. On the contrary, we have taken steps to isolate these children and their parents from other illegal immigrants. This is the fact,” he added.

Photos and videos of hundreds of migrant workers and refugees being arrested in the Covid-19 red zones went viral on Labour Day in a mass crackdown by the police and immigration forces.

The operation took place in three buildings — Selangor Mansion, Malayan Mansion and Menara City One — known to be homes to many migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur (KL). Social activists and human rights organisations have since criticised the move.

Earlier, Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin had deflected claims on the government’s alleged mistreatment of undocumented migrant workers and said that authorities had acted on laws and the public’s “wish”.

“Although Al Jazeera stated that we were harsh and hard (on the illegal immigrants), I feel that was what the people wanted. The people want the government to be firm on those who do wrong.

“So, we should not dwell on what was reported as the story had been distorted. To me, the offenders were detained according to standard operating procedures and with the laws of this country,” he said, as reported by state news agency Bernama.

In a separate update, health officials reported five new confirmed coronavirus cases yesterday, involving two local infections and three imported cases. This brings the cumulative total to 8,668 cases.

The two locally transmitted cases made up of a non-citizen patient identified at a health district office in KL and a Malaysian detected via contact tracing, Health DG Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said.

The three imported infections made up of two Malaysians and a permanent resident.

The overall death toll remains unchanged at 121 with no new deaths recorded since June 16. The country also reported 11 recoveries, pushing the recovery count to 8,476 or 97.8% of total cases. This leaves Malaysia with 71 active cases of which two patients are under intensive care unit and requires respiratory support.