The Al Jazeera Media Network that owns the Qatar-based Al Jazeera English news channel released a statement on Thursday night, 9 July
In the statement, it addressed the response from Malaysian authorities to its recent documentary titled 'Locked Up in Malaysia's Lockdown', in which Al Jazeera's 101 East documentary strand investigated the plight of undocumented migrants who were arrested during raids in areas under tight lockdown.
"Malaysian officials and state television have criticised the report as being inaccurate, misleading, and unfair. Al Jazeera rejects these claims by the Malaysian authorities," the Qatar-based broadcaster said, adding that it stands by "the professionalism, quality, and impartiality of its journalism".
Al Jazeera also warned of "serious concerns about developments that have occurred in Malaysia since the broadcast of its 101 East investigative documentary" on 3 July this year.
The Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department is investigating Al Jazeera for sedition, defamation, and improper use of network facilities under the Communication and Multimedia Act of 1998.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera said that it has "grave concerns" about its staff in Malaysia who have received abusive messages including death threats and disclosure of their personal details over social media
"Charging journalists for doing their jobs is not the action of a democracy that values free speech. Journalism is not a crime," the broadcaster said in the statement.
Al Jazeera said that the personal details of current and former staff have been published online, in a serious breach of privacy which could potentially expose them to great risk both now and in the future.
"Al Jazeera is also concerned for the safety of those interviewed in the documentary who have also been subjected to abusive online harassment and hate speech. People should feel free to speak with the media and express their views without the fear that they could be targeted."
The Immigration Department released personal details of one of the migrants interviewed in the documentary with the Immigration director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud warning that foreigners who "make inaccurate statements aimed at damaging Malaysia's image" would have their work passes revoked.
"No personal opinions of any Al Jazeera staff"
According to the Qatar-based broadcaster, the documentary contains "the views and experiences of a wide range of people from different backgrounds, including a well-respected Malaysian doctor and Malaysian relief worker on the frontlines" and that in the report, Al Jazeera had clearly acknowledged that Malaysia's COVID-19 response has successfully contained the spread of the virus.
The programme, Al Jazeera said, also clearly "shows the humanitarian efforts made by Malaysian organisations which provide direct assistance to migrants in need".
Al Jazeera said that while it repeatedly reached out to the Malaysian government, its requests for interviews were not accepted
"Al Jazeera repeatedly sought to obtain the government's view, by requesting interviews with a number of senior government ministers and officials," the statement said.
According to Al Jazeera, its reporters had also tried to attend Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob's daily press conferences prior to the publication of the documentary but were told only state media could attend.
Following the publication of the documentary, Ismail Sabri asked Al Jazeera to apologise to Malaysians, saying that "what was reported were blatant lies" and that Al Jazeera "has ill intentions towards Malaysia so they report falsely, accusing us of racism and more".
Al Jazeera, however, defended its report saying that many of their programmes have been "internationally recognised with prestigious awards from across the globe".
"Despite the government's refusal to be interviewed, Al Jazeera still produced a balanced film by including comments made by the Defence Minister at two press conferences," the broadcaster said, adding that the documentary captured events, including immigration raids, as they unfolded in real-time in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, it called on the Malaysian authorities to desist from initiating any criminal investigation.
Additionally, Al Jazeera said that it is "prepared to host a representative of the Malaysian government to respond to the matters raised in the documentary".