Almost three months after his he was cleared of all charges, it seems the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has launched a crackdown on media for covering his corruption scandal.
Australian reporter Linton Besser and camera operator Louie Eroglu, both from ABC News, were arrested in the city of Kuching after attempting to approach Najib on the street to ask him about the high-profile 1MDB scandal.
"I'm always concerned when there are instances of a crackdown on freedom of speech, in democracies particularly," said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, according to ABC. "I'm also concerned about the freedom that journalists have to carry out their work."
The scandal erupted in July last year after The Wall Street Journal reported that Najib transferred almost $700 million from the heavily indebted state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) to his personal bank account. The Malaysian PM chairs 1MDB's advisory board.
Although Najib denied the allegations, people started doubting the ruling coalition led by his United Malays National Organization party. Protesters took to the streets, demanding the leader’s resignation, but to no avail.
After several months of investigation by the leader’s hand-picked attorney, he was cleared of corruption charges.
ABC News isn’t the only media organization allegedly being punished for covering Najib’s scandal.
The Malaysian Insider, a popular news website blocked by Malaysian authorities last month following its 1MDB coverage, is shutting down.
Besser and Eroglu have been released without charge. But, as of the time of writing this article, they cannot leave Malaysia.