KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian authorities said on Saturday they had arrested a Bangladeshi man who criticised the government’s treatment of migrant workers in a documentary by broadcaster Al Jazeera.
The July 3 documentary on Malaysia’s treatment of undocumented foreign workers during the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a backlash in the Southeast Asia nation, and an arrest warrant was issued for Mohammad Rayhan Kabir, the Bangladeshi worker quoted in the report.
Rights groups have accused the government of suppressing media freedom after Al Jazeera journalists were called in for questioning by the police.
Malaysia’s immigration department said Rayhan had been arrested on Friday and would be expelled from the country.
“This Bangladeshi national will be deported and blacklisted from entering Malaysia forever,” Immigration Director General Khairul Dzaimee Daud said on Saturday.
He did not say why Rayhan was arrested or whether he was suspected of committing a crime. His department did not respond to further queries from Reuters.
Qatar-based Al Jazeera said it was disturbing that Rayhan had been arrested “for choosing to speak up about some of the experiences of the voiceless and the vulnerable.”
Malaysia arrested hundreds of undocumented foreigners, including children and Rohingya refugees, when the country was under lockdown to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
Human rights activists have condemned the arrests as inhumane. Malaysian officials have said they were necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.
Public opposition to migrant workers has been growing, with some accusing them of spreading the coronavirus and being a burden on government resources.
Activists have voiced concern that the four-month old administration of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is stifling dissent amid a series of clampdowns, an accusation it has denied.
Al Jazeera has said its staff and those interviewed in the documentary had faced abuse, death threats and the disclosure of their personal details on social media.
Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi and Joseph Sipalan; Editing by William Mallard and Christina Fincher