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Australian Journalists Arrested in Malaysia

  • VOA News

FILE - A Muslim woman walks past a Malaysian flag in front of Sultan Abdul Samad building at Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

FILE - A Muslim woman walks past a Malaysian flag in front of Sultan Abdul Samad building at Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Two Australian journalists have been briefly detained in Malaysia after trying to ask Prime Minister Najib Razak about corruption allegations.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation says reporter Linton Besser and cameraman Louie Eroglu were arrested Saturday in the city of Kuching after approaching Najib as he was entering a mosque. The pair were surrounded by the prime minister's security detail and briefly questioned before they were allowed to leave.

But Besser and Eroglu were arrested again as they returned to their hotel, and questioned for six hours at a police station. The pair have since been released, but must remain in Malaysia until Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali decides if they should be charged with interfering with a public servant while performing his duties.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters Monday she is "concerned when there are instances of a crackdown on freedom of speech in democracies particularly," as well as "the freedom that journalists have to carry out their work." Bishop says Besser and Eroglu are receiving assistance from the Australian consulate.

Najib has been under fire since last year over allegations of missing funds from the state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad. A previous investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said the money was a political donation from an unidentified Middle Eastern benefactor.

He was cleared by the attorney-general in January of wrongdoing over a transfer of $681 million into his personal bank account. Apandi said the the money was given to Najib in early 2013 by the Saudi royal family as a personal donation.

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