Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said Australia’s High Commissioner in Malaysia is in contact with an ABC journalist and cameraman who are being blocked from leaving the country.
Four Corners reporter Linton Besser and cameraman Louis Eroglu have been told they must remain in Malaysia until the nation’s Attorney-General decides if they should face charges over an attempt to question Prime Minister Najib Razak over a corruption scandal.
Ms Bishop said the men were receiving consular support.
“I’m always concerned when there are instances of a crackdown on freedom of speech — in democracies particularly,” she said.
“I’m also concerned about the freedom that journalists have to carry out their work.”
The pair were arrested in the city of Kuching on Saturday night, after approaching Mr Razak during his visit to a mosque.
As Mr Najib entered the venue, Besser asked him about the most controversial topic in Malaysia: why hundreds of millions of dollars had been deposited in the Prime Minister’s bank account.
Besser did not get an answer. Najib’s security detail surrounded the reporter and cameraman and, after questioning, they were allowed to leave, but then re-arrested as they returned to their hotel.
They were questioned in a police station for six hours and their passports were taken.
The local police chief said Besser and Eroglu crossed a security line and aggressively tried to approach the Prime Minister.
Both were released without charge on Sunday, but have been told not to leave the country.
They have also had their passports returned.
ABC News director Gaven Morris denied the allegations that were made about the behaviour of Besser and Eroglu at the event in Kuching.
“I can tell you that at no time did our journalists obstruct or intend to obstruct any public servants in performance of their duties,” Mr Morris said in a statement.
“They did not see a police line and do not believe they crossed one.
“They stopped filming and left the event as soon as they were asked. They fully cooperated with the police before and after their arrest.
“We are doing everything we can to resolve this situation as quickly as possible,” Mr Morris added.
“We are hopeful the police investigation will be concluded soon and Louie and Linton will be able to freely depart Malaysia.”
Fahmi Fadzil, a spokesman for Malaysia’s opposition party, said the pair could face time in prison if charged.
“I think the threat against them is on section 136 of the penal code, which [refers to] the obstruction of an officer in discharging his duties,” Mr Fadzil said.
“[It] could land them in prison for two years. But I don’t think Prime Minister Najib would go down that road because then it would prove to be quite sensational and it would cause international controversy.
“I believe ultimately they will be deported and probably will not be allowed to come back to Malaysia, unfortunately, until we see a change in the leadership in Malaysia.”
The ABC has been in contact with the pair and their families. They are said to be in good spirits and doing well.
Malaysia’s Attorney-General is expected to make a decision on Besser and Eroglu before Wednesday.