AUSTRALIAN journalist Linton Besser, who was detained by Malaysian police on Saturday after posing a thorny question to Prime Minister Najib Razak, has described the circumstances surrounding his arrest as “a circus”.
The tweeted comment came following Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Hamzah Zainuddin’s remark that the detention was made to thwart kidnap attempts on Najib when brushing aside claims the government was curbing press freedom in the country.
“A circus. First I hadn’t registered for the event, then I had been aggressive, then I breached a cordon. Now this,” Besser said on Twitter, posting a screenshot of an online video article headlined “Australian journalist detained over kidnapping fears” that appeared on MalaysiaKini yesterday.
A circus. First I hadn't registered for the event, then I had been aggressive, then I breached a cordon. Now this: pic.twitter.com/M0JHbEzKPH
— Linton Besser (@lb_online) March 15, 2016
Besser and cameraman Louie Eroglu were working on an investigative story for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s ‘Four Corners’ series.
The two had approached Najib during a walkabout event while Najib was in the Sarawak state capital Kuching to canvass for the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional in the upcoming state elections.
Besser had asked Najib about the US$681 million 1MDB scandal that has put the spotlight on him and his administration.
Hours after the encounter, the two were taken into police custody for six hours, sparking an outcry at what appeared to be an attempt by the Malaysian authorities to clamp down on press freedom.
Local police accused Besser and Eroglu of approaching Najib “aggressively” and “breaching security cordons”, and considered pressing charges against the duo.
Both were allowed to leave the country on Tuesday, despite being told hours earlier that they had to appear in court to face charges for “obstructing a civil servant”.
— Sally Neighbour (@neighbour_s) March 15, 2016