Creative Ways to Get Around Government Censorship in Malaysia

"According to the World Press Freedom Index for 2014, Malaysia has plunged to a historic low of 147 out of 180 countries. It 2006 it had a respected ranking of 92."

AUTHOR / Faidzal Mohtar MalaysiaKini

Creative Ways to Get Around Government Censorship in Malaysia
Malaysia, Censorship, press freedom, media, Faidzal Mohtar MalaysiaKini

Zulkiflee Anwar Haque better known as Zunar is a cartoonist who has been drawing editorial and political cartoons for over 20 years.

His cartoons cover a range of issues but are known for being political cartoons that criticize the government. 

“Most of mainstream media they neglect or they black out the important issues they just focus on petty issues or sensational issues. They want to distract people’s mind from focusing on the fundamental issues. So I go back I say no, through my cartoons I want to highlight the important issues in Malaysia like corruption, there are so many cases of corruption that’s been blacked out by mainstream media.”

As rules get stricter on what can or cannot be said in Malaysia people are having to get creative about putting out alternative news….including using flowers and flags.

A group of designers and architects set up the group ‘Malaysia spring’ after the disputed general election results came out.

Architect Ng Sek who heads the groups says they wanted to give people a sense of hope. 

“People generally in Malaysia because the political process is so alienating, a lot of people are feeling helpless so the fact that they can do something simple by just the process of making a few flowers and planting those flowers in a public space which is semi illegal or legal, just that action of defiance I think is very important.”

They encouraged people to planted symbolic ‘flowers’ in the form of colorful flags in empty spaces around Malaysia, such as roundabouts and public parks. 

People of all ages took part in the campaign with thousands of flags being planted.

“We want to get this idea that maybe Malaysia can have a spring, and we wanted to do this mass planting of flowers to make our neighborhood a lot more colorful and at the same time making people think that things can be beautiful, things can be sunny, things can be warm and everything else in this country if all of us puts some effort into it.”

But the government didn’t see it as something beautiful.

Local government officers, the DBKL, came and tried to take the color flags out. 

But Ng says in some of the areas the residents fought back.  

“Residents start coming out from their homes and they were protesting and more and more people came out, and it got to a stage where DBKL decided that they cannot proceed anymore because some incident might happen so they back off.”

The government has also actively tried to stop Political cartoonist Zunar from getting his work seen. 

“In 2009 the official from home ministry started to harass my vendors and bookstores who sell my cartoons. They gave a warning to them not to sell my cartoon in the future. They also seize hundreds of my books at that time. They raided the bookstore and seized them. Later on they banned my cartoon under the printing and publishing act. After the raid I came out with a book and so they banned that book.”

He says the internet has been harder for the government to control.

“Now we have internet, we are lucky we have internet.” 

Messages are continuously being spread through alternative mediums in Malaysia that have yet to face any regulation.

  • Malaysia
  • Censorship
  • press freedom
  • media
  • Faidzal Mohtar MalaysiaKini


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