He walked out halfway – and it was TV gold.
Now, the Al Jazeera interview that saw former Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak leaving unceremoniously has been crowned 2018’s “Interview of the Year” at the UK’s annual Television Journalism Awards.
The awards, which were announced on Wednesday (Feb 27), saw Al Jazeera’s clip beat out interviews by British personalities Max Mosley of Channel 4, and Sir Cliff Richard of ITV to clinch the title.
The interview, titled “Malaysia: Najib Speaks”, took place last October between Najib and reporter Mary Ann Jolley for Al Jazeera’s 101 East programme.
The end of the interview clip shows the former premier walking out of the session as Jolley continues to ask questions related to his involvement with the 1MDB scandal and Jho Low.
It currently has over a million views on YouTube.
He added that she had also “persisted” with questions about the high-profile murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, an issue he said was “under due process in the courts”.
According to The Star, Najib gave another reason for his behaviour: the interview had gone beyond the agreed schedule, and he was anxious about the safety of his wife and sons, who were being questioned by the police at that time.
On the awards site, the judges said Al Jazeera’s interview “stood out for its courage, tenacity and sheer unadulterated watchability”.
“Although the story focused on an issue few would have known about prior to the interview, this did not detract from the viewer’s ability to understand the jaw-dropping venality of the interviewee,” it added.
Najib himself took to Facebook to say he had “no problems walking away from a foreign reporter (Jolley)”, as long as he did not “walk away from (his) people”.
He added that Jolley’s “conspiracy theory” about his involvement in the Altantuya case was “misplaced”, and that police under the new government found no evidence linking him to her death.