Al-Jazeera journalist Drew Ambrose leaves the Bukit Man police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 10, 2020. Malaysian authorities recently denied Ambrose and Jenni Henderson's visa renewals. (Reuters/Lim Huey Teng)

Malaysia refuses to renew 2 Al-Jazeera reporters’ visas amid investigation

Bangkok, August 10, 2020 – Malaysian authorities should allow Al-Jazeera journalists to report from the country freely and without harassment, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Malaysian immigration authorities recently declined to renew the visas of reporters Drew Ambrose and Jenni Henderson, both Australian nationals, according to news reports citing Giles Trendle, English managing director of the Qatari broadcaster.

The denial was made public on August 6, two days after police raided the broadcaster’s office in Kuala Lumpur as part of an investigation into a program alleging Malaysia’s mistreatment of undocumented foreign workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as CPJ documented at the time.

“The refusal to renew the visas of Al-Jazeera reporters Drew Amrose and Jenni Henderson marks a new low in Malaysia’s harassment of international media outlets,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Authorities should reverse this punitive decision and cease and desist their campaign of harassment against Al-Jazeera and its staffers.”

Trendle’s statements cited in the news reports did not provide any further details surrounding the rejections. CPJ emailed Makhzan Bin Mahyuddin, chief information officer of Malaysia’s Immigration Department, for comment, but did not immediately receive a reply.

Authorities are investigating six of Al-Jazeera’s Malaysia-based reporters and staff members, including Ambrose and Henderson, for alleged sedition, defamation, and violation of the Communications and Multimedia Act over the “Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown” program, which aired on July 3, according to those news reports and a report by the broadcaster.

Police interrogated Al-Jazeera’s reporters about the program on July 10, as CPJ documented at the time. In a statement, Al-Jazeera said it stands by the journalists and their reporting.