Australia news crew avoids charges over Malaysia PM questions

Australia news crew avoids charges over Malaysia PM questions

(BBC news)

An Australian news crew will not face charges after their attempt to question Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, the Australian Broadcasting Corp says.

Reporter Linton Besser and cameraman Louie Eroglu approached Mr Najib in Kuching on Saturday to ask him about corruption claims, which he denies.

The pair were expected to be charged with obstructing a public official but the charges were dropped, the ABC says.

The ABC suggested there had been some kind of “high-level intervention”.

On Monday, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the case raised concerns over press freedom.

“I’m always concerned when there are instances of a crackdown on freedom of speech, in democracies particularly,” the ABC quoted Ms Bishop as saying.

“I’m also concerned about the freedom that journalists have to carry out their work.”

Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Malaysia was not obstructing the media, but that foreign media workers “must perform their duties according to the journalism ethics”.

‘Failing to comply’

Mr Besser and Mr Eroglu had approached Mr Najib while he was visiting a mosque in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak state.

They attempted to ask Mr Najib about a $681m (£478m) payment from the 1MDB state investment fund to his personal account.

Mr Najib has been cleared of personal wrongdoing by Malaysian prosecutors but a number of international investigations are ongoing.

A statement issued by Malaysian police to news agency Bernama said the two men crossed a “security line and aggressively tried to approach the prime minister”.

“Both of them were subsequently arrested for failing to comply with police instructions not to cross the security line,” the statement said.

In an email to staff, the ABC’s director of news, Gaven Morris, said Mr Besser and Mr Eroglu did not believe they had crossed a police line and had not obstructed officials.

He said they had “fully co-operated with the police” and were receiving consular and legal support.

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