The two Australian journalists detained in Malaysia for attempting to interview the country's prime minister about corruption allegations were deported on Tuesday after authorities decided not to charge them. 

The decision came after the Australian government intervened and suggested the detention was part of a Malaysian crackdown on press freedom.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) television reporter Linton Besser and camera operator Louie Eroglu had been told to appear in a Sarawak state court on Tuesday morning.

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They were initially charged with obstructing a public servant from discharging his duties when they questioned Prime Minister Najib Razak as he entered a mosque on Saturday.

The state broadcaster reported that two hours after a press release was issued on Monday confirming the charges, the lawyer for the two was told they would not be prosecuted.

ABC said no explanation was given for the about-face.

On Monday, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the case would be raised at the "highest levels within the Malaysian government".

She added there were concerns about "a crackdown on freedom of speech".

Sarawak police said the pair were arrested after they "crossed the security line and aggressively tried to approach" Najib, accusations that the ABC denied.

Najib is engulfed in a scandal over $681m deposited into his bank account in early 2013. He has denied any wrongdoing.

In January, Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali decided not to prosecute the prime minister, saying the money was a "personal donation" from the Saudi royal family.


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Besser and Eroglu, on assignment for an investigative current affairs programme, had asked Najib as he entered a mosque why the money had been deposited into his account.

Najib did not respond and his security detail surrounded the two journalists.

Online reaction to the release was positive, with some tweeting pictures of the two journalists in Malaysia's airport prior to departure. 

 

 

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies