Arrest of book editor an alarming signal for freedom of expression

THE Madani government is supposed to be promoting progressive values. Values that allow for free and civil discussion of pertinent issues without fear of recriminations and reprisals from the powers-that-be.

The latest incident involving the arrest of Kean Wong under the Sedition Act 1987 is yet another signal to the rakyat that this very much a case of selective prosecution.

Wong was the editor of the book Rebirth: Reformasi, Resistance, and Hope in New Malaysia which was banned three years ago under the Printing Presses and Publications (Control of Undesirable Publications) Order 2020 for having a cover that purportedly insults the Malaysian coat of arms.

A number of issues arise here. Firstly, shouldn’t the publisher be responsible for the cover art as Wong’s role as editor is to oversee the written contents.

Secondly, the offending piece had apparently been displayed previously at art exhibitions and was not deemed offensive then. Again, why no action was taken against the artist or the organisers of the exhibition then?

Thirdly, caricatures and satire are an important part of a mature democracy where dissent is not just permitted but actively encouraged. Bearing a passing resemblance to the national coat of arms is NOT the same as belittling or mocking it.

Meanwhile, public figures in the form of popular preachers and high profile politicians are allowed to make all sorts of inflammatory remarks, inciting racial discord without fear of reprisals. How often have Malaysians been confronted by the statement “no further action” (NFA) from the authorities?

In fact, it would appear their reward for insulting their fellow Malaysians with openly racist comments is to be invited to be part of the ruling coalition.

Meanwhile, an editor of a book that attempts to offer political insight and analysis of a previous general election is being made an example of. – Oct 17, 2023

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