Malaysiakini Letter

Did NST cartoon offend majority?

Jeffrey  |  Published:  |  Modified:

The issue is not about whether there was double standards regarding giving the New Straits Times a reprieve when The Sarawak Tribune and Guangming Daily were punished. As opposition leader Lim Kit Siang said, 'Three wrongs don't make a right!'

It is an issue about right or wrong and whether NST did do wrong and whether we should give in at the slightest pretext to those who claimed religious sensitivities have been trammeled upon for their own political agenda.

The publication of caricature of the Prophet by The Sarawak Tribune and Guangming Daily was decided wrong. In NST 's case, the 'Non-Sequitur' cartoon by Wiley Miller did not contain any caricature of the Prophet Muhammad. It was a cartoon of Kevin, the street artist/busker who is 'the most feared man'. It was at best a caricature of the current situation and climate of fear of having anything to do with this type of caricaturing epitomised by Kevin.

It is true that PAS and three NGOs - PPIM, GPMS and Kimma - were offended and lodged police reports but are they representative of the majority of mainstream Muslims in this country for us to conclude that Muslims in this country are generally offended by the NST ?

It is also not an issue of whether NST was to be severely punished. NST is owned ultimately by Umno and the question of it being put in harm's way by suffering its printing licence being suspended indefinitely like The Sarawak Tribune simply did not arise.

The issue was whether the move against NST 's top editors would have represented a move to undermine the prime minister's authority, discredit his reform agenda and usher in his eventual exit. Why else before the PM's return from Perth, a show-cause letter was directed to be given to the NST , when the question of whether NST did wrong had not yet been decided by the proper authority, the minister of internal security, who happens to also be the prime minister?

The prime minister rightly stood firm on what is right or wrong in accordance to his reform agenda for greater freedom of expression and transparency. As highlighted by Aliran, press freedom should not be sacrificed to serve the political purposes of one group fighting against another for control and supremacy.

Neither should certain quarters try to hijack this controversy in order to advance their motive of further restricting press freedom in Malaysia. We would rather the government, newspapers, civil society and other concerned Malaysians engage in meaningful and sober dialogue that could lead us to a better understanding of the real issues at hand .

We are at the crossroads at this point. Malaysians should understand what the real issues at stake are, and on whose side we stand. As for me, I was on unfamiliar ground for the very first time - on the side of the New Straits Times .

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