Protect, not stifle freedom of expression


  • Letters
  • Monday, 17 Feb 2020

LAWYERS for Liberty views with concern recent incidents involving the arts and entertainment industry in which freedom of speech and expression was curtailed.

On Feb 9, a performance at the Anugerah Juara Lagu event by rock group Drama Band that parodied public figures was censured for being “too sensitive” and a video of it removed from social media.

On Feb 7, entertainment group Rare had to apologise for satirising the Pakatan Harapan government during the Maharaja Lawak Mega 2019 event before it could get a permit from the Shah Alam City Council to perform at another event in Shah Alam.

On Feb 4, the National Art Gallery removed four works from visual artist Ahmad Fuad Osman’s At The End Of The Day Even Art Is Not Important exhibition, after one of the gallery’s board members complained and alleged that the pieces were political and obscene. (The works will reportedly be reinstated after a public outcry.)

These instances are recent examples of censorship by industry players in the arts and entertainment scene that should not occur in Malaysia Baharu. There is now greater freedom and openness in the country that must be protected and promoted instead of being curtailed by overzealous officials stuck in the old political mindset of being subservient to politicians and people in power.

We would like to remind all the parties above – media owners, city councils and state institutions – that dictating what artists and performers can or cannot do is detrimental to the arts, as it interferes with the creative freedom of artists.

While there is no absolute freedom of speech and expression, it is also not for them to be the self-appointed guardians of public morality and “sensitivities”.

We urge the arts and entertainment industry to embrace the greater freedom of speech and expression afforded in Malaysia Baharu. Why stifle artists and performers when instead we can nurture, support and promote their creativity? By doing so, perhaps one day Malaysia may also produce more of our own world-class artists and entertainers.

MELISSA SASIDARAN , Director, Lawyers for Liberty

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