Why Did Malaysian Authorities Arrest ABC’s Journalists After That Press Con?

The Australian media duo have been released but are still not allowed to leave Malaysia, pending investigation.

Cover image via

A. Santamil Selvi, wife of the late private investigator P. Balasubramaniam, held a press conference last Saturday, 12 March to apologise to Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife for past accusations regarding Altantuya Shaariibuu's murder

A. Santamil Selvi read out her apology in the office of Persatuan Minda dan Sosial Prihatin (PMSP) activist, Ramesh Rao Naidu, in Petaling Jaya, but ran off after she was unable to answer questions about her statement.

She later said her husband’s statutory declaration linking Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor was true.

"When my husband died I felt 'tension' so I blamed Datin Seri Rosmah. Come March 15, my husband would have been dead for three years, but not a single person has asked if I needed help.

"I apologise to Datin Seri Rosmah for saying she killed my husband," Selvi said. Asked if she was also apologising to Najib, she said she was only apologising to Rosmah.

However, the press conference took an unfortunate turn when Selvi stormed out angrily after an Australian journalist questioned the motives behind her apology, asking if she was bribed to do so

Image via Kini TV

During a press conference at Pertubuhan Minda dan Social Prihatin Malaysia (Minda), A. Santamil Selvi first read out an apology to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his family for the allegations and difficulties she and her family had caused to them.

When asked for an explanation on why she had "all of a sudden" apologised, Santamil just said she had made the allegations out of anger.

"I was upset over his death and so upon hearing everyone blaming Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor (Najib's wife), I too was influenced that she murdered my husband.

"Which is why I want to retract what I said and I want to apologise for causing the family any sort of difficulty," she said.

"Why have you after so many years of fighting really for your husband's name and the allegations he made, suddenly changed your story? Is this part of a political conspiracy to protect the prime minister?" asked ABC Australia's Four Corners journalist Linton Besser

Journalist Linton Besser during the press conference held on Saturday, 12 March

Image via The Star

"I waited for three years, they (PKR) promised me they will do everything for my children, but until now they haven't done anything," answered Selvi.

When asked if she thinks her late husband's statements on the Altantuya case is true, Selvi said, "yes, it's all true".

Interjecting Selvi, Minda's president Datuk Ramesh Rao angrily responded to Besser's question saying, "What nonsense are you talking about? Stupid... have you ever been paid by PKR to do this?

"I'm not being paid by anyone except my employer," answered Besser.

Persatuan Minda dan Sosial Prihatin activist Ramesh Rao Naidu

Image via The Malaysian Outsider

So, what happened next? How and why did the Malaysian authorities arrest Besser and his camera operator, Louie Eroglu?

Four Corners journalist Linton Besser

Image via Sidney Morning Herald

Four Corners cameraman Louie Eroglu

Image via Australian Cinematographers Society

Why the Four Corners duo were in Malaysia:

According to news reports, they arrived on 5 March and have been investigating the allegations of corruption and bribery tied to the murder of model, Altantuya Shaariibuu.

ABC Four Corners is ABC Television's news and current affairs program.

Where they were arrested and why:

The duo was picked up by the authorities after they allegedly crossed the security line and tried to approach PM Najib Razak in Kuching for questions.

They are being investigated under Section 186 of the Penal Code for obstructing a public servant.

Both were released without charge on Sunday, 13 March, but have been told not to leave the country.

Their passports were initially seized but have since been returned.

"Both of them were subsequently arrested for failing to comply with police instructions not to cross the security line," read a police statement obtained by AFP.

"They were just carrying out their duties and asked the prime minister questions and they stopped when they were told to," explained the duo's lawyer, Albert Tang

"They denied any accusation of obstructing anybody and there was no security line," Tang told The Malaysian Insider.

Sally Neighbour, the programme’s executive producer, said on Twitter the staff were arrested "after trying to question Prime Minister (Datuk Seri) Najib Razak over a corruption scandal".

The journalists, Linton Besser, 39, and Louis Eroglu, 51, tried to approach Najib who was on an official visit to the Darul Ehsan Mosque at Kampung Haji Baki, Kota Sentosa, at 8.35pm last night.

Tang said the journalists did ask Najib questions, but he was not aware of the questions being asked.

Responding to the arrest, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said that they would have to discuss with the Attorney General's Chambers before pressing charges

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar

Image via The Malaysian Insider

He said the action of the two men was improper as the Prime Minister’s event was not an interview or media conference session.

Khalid said media personnel, whether local or international, should maintain ethics while conducting their duties.

"Security control for the Prime Minister is the task of the police. We do not want anything untoward happening to him," he said, according to Bernama.

Meanwhile, the Australian government has expressed concerns over the arrest, stressing that they will be bringing up the matter to Putrajaya

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop

Image via The Malay Mail Online

The Australian government will be contacting Malaysia over the two Australian reporters who were detained and had their passports seized on Saturday after attempting to interview Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop said.

Bishop was quoted by international news agency AP as saying that the issue of the newsmen’s treatment “are matters that we are raising with the Malaysian authorities.”

“We will do what we can to get to the bottom of this issue and make representations at the highest levels within the Malaysian government,” she was quoted as saying.

The programme's executive producer Sally Neighbour said the newsmen's passports were returned yesterday, but they have been barred from leaving the country.

Read more about A. Santamil Selvi's press conference that was held on 12 March here:

The mystery surrounding the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu has been going on since 2006. After eight years, in January 2015, the Federal Court slapped both Azilah and Sirul with a death sentence:

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