Written by Nasihah Hamid
2016 controversial over the caricature works by Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque or also known as Zunar at the cartoon exhibition had become a debating issue at local and international level especially as he was charged under Sedition Act 1948 of having a seditious tendency. This famous cartoonist who was known for ridiculing the scandal-plagued of Prime Minister and openly criticises government policies through his cartoon was arrested in Penang state where he was participating in a literary exhibition. His artworks which contained caricature of Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, were raged by Penang UMNO Youth members who claimed that the exhibition should be shut down because it featured a seditious affinity and provoked a breach of the peace. His arrestment has raised several issues including the significant level of freedom of speech and expression in Malaysia.
Berita Harian online or known as BH online served the latest news and in-depth opinions on what is happening in Malaysia. Berita Harian is owned by NSTP (New Straits Times Press Bhd), one of the biggest print media company in Malaysia and somewhat linked to the government’s ruling party Barisan Nasional. Berita Harian still maintains and adopts a moderate, mild and simplified approach in their contents. In fact, this online newspaper also continues its editorial stance of providing serious and credible news.
This online portal aims to serve the public interest and every article reported is based on the integrity, impartiality and independence not influenced by commercial interest and political pressure. Its principle emphasises on the independence aspects of the newspaper by providing sacred facts in every article published. It also provided readers with comprehensive and breaking news coverage with in-depth analyses stories. The Guardian values the highest principle of truthfulness, objective and fair journalism in every news reporting.
By going through a bunch of headlines and articles after the arrestment of the cartoonist, the analyses show that the BH Online use some of the propaganda techniques to disseminate the stories to the readers. In a sense, the propagandist aspects in the BH Online are looking to turn Zunar into someone who is threatening national peace and security by criticising Prime Minister through his caricature artworks.
As for The Guardian, there is some propaganda used in reporting the case of Zunar arrestment under Sedition Act. By providing the statement of a participant which appraisal Zunar arrestment as government’s disregard for freedom of expression, this shows that The Guardian try to influence the public to perceive this issue as important. In fact, Zunar criticism of prime minister through his caricature is not only what have been highlighted in the articles but they also literally raised the issue of freedom of speech and expression in Malaysia.
As for the BH Online, there are significantly low of freedom speech and expression in the news writing regarding this case. This is because of several reasons such as ownership and regulation within the local policies. The writing bound to favour government side and influence public just the ways it is. As people are questioning Zunar arrestment under Sedition Act, BH Online practically published the government statement explaining the cause of the legal action taken against the cartoonist. However, BH online tends to provide some evidence in the news reporting. For example, an article titled “pameran kartunis Zunar di KOMTAR kecoh” on December 25, 2017 attached readers with a video and pictures of the situation.
In reporting of Zunar case, The Guardian is focusing on the level of repression in Malaysia. As this news portal is international media, thus they are ungoverned by any particular law which gives them the opportunity to implement free writing and express their concern liberally. Rather than emphasise on the reasons for Zunar arrestment, they were highly questioning the Sedition Act and relate it with the freedom of speech and expression in the local scene. Therefore, this shows that The Guardian is more liberal and practice a high level of freedom in their writing. This also can be seen where they include the 1MDB scandal and Bersih rally in the Zunar news article