A video of the Australian journalist Linton Bresser questioning Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak in Kuching last Saturday showed that the journalists did not breach any security cordon, as claimed by police.
Bresser, who is attached to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) programme 'Four Corners', had joined a group of press photographers who crowded around Najib as he got out of his car to enter a Kota Sentosa mosque.
The smiling PM was also surrounded by minders, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri and police.
“Hello Mr Prime Minister, it’s ABC Australia. I’m wondering if you could explain the hundreds of million in your account?” Bresser asked, but was ignored by Najib who continued walking with a stone face.
“Hello, Mr Prime Minister, can you explain all the hundreds of million of dollars in your account? Mr Prime Minister?” the reporter asked again.
At this point, the police, who were previously heard muttering ‘ Apa ni ?’ (What is this?) in an irritated tone, stepped in to ask Bresser who he was.
The reporter then explained that he was “just a journalist here for a press conference”.
The 58-second footage released by 'Four Corners' on its Vimeo account showed that the journalist did not “aggressively” approach Najib, as claimed by Sarawak criminal investigation department chief Dev Kumar.
“Who are you, what are you trying to do? No, no, no. Take him away. Where is CID?” a police officer is heard saying.
When Bresser explained that he was a journalist, the police officer was heard saying: “What is your identity? We don’t know about you? Get out.”
Bresser and ABC camera operator Louie Eroglu were arrested that night.
The authorities later said the duo will be charged under the Penal Code for obstructing a public officer from doing his duty.
However, the authorities decided to deport them instead for breaching immigration law for entering Sarawak as tourists for working purposes.
Follow ethics and security protocol
Earlier, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi explained that the arrest as a “security issue” and said foreign journalists must follow ethics and security protocol.
Bresser told the ABC said there was no security cordon at the event.
"The first time I got an instruction was after I threw a couple of questions for the prime minister to answer and the police told me to stop and step away, and that's exactly what I did.
"Louie stopped filming and we cooperated at all times with the police. There was no obstruction at all."
Sarawak Tourism Minister Abang Johari Abang Openg said the journalists should have waited for a press conference.
Media door-stops are generally not allowed for the prime minister with most journalists attempting to do so pushed aside by security personnel.
Media advocacy group Geramm in a statement defending the journalists also noted that Najib very rarely holds press conferences, especially those open to all media.