Is photo-stomping a legitimate form of freedom of expression?

1

The police should already be busy with their investigation into Najib’s alleged corruption and they should not be wasting time on this photo-stomping incident, says Charles Hector.

Stepping on Najib’s photo – is it wrong? Should it be made into an offence? Or is it a legitimate exercise of our inherent freedom of expression?

If you step on Najib’s face – then of course it is a criminal offence. But stepping on a picture of Najib, our Prime Minister – I believe it is a legitimate form of freedom of expression.

What about the burning of an effigy of Najib?

What about tearing and defacing photos in a peaceful assembly?

What about cartoons and caricatures of Najib? What about putting a big X on a photo of Najib? What about drawing horns on a photo of Najib?

There was a protest in one of the Asian countries, where as a form of protest against the leade, people made small stickers of the face of the leader, and stuck in under their shoes and slippers. They even put those stickers on chairs for people to ‘put their bums on the face of the said leader’?

For most of us – we do not have the ability to get on stage and voice our opposition against Najib.

If we write to the newspapers, our letters may not be carried.

Hence, people become creative in exercising their right to freedom of expression and opinion. And for some, it is the stepping on photos even burning photos or even tearing up photos. (Even now, when our boyfriend/girlfriend angers us, we sometimes do the same – burn the photos, even place the photos on a board and throw darts at it!)

READ MORE:  Stop the intimidation

Remember the saying, “A picture paints a thousand words”. Likewise, a symbolic act of protest or an expression against our PM can also include stepping on his picture, making ‘fun’ of him in drawings and even sketches.

In Malaysia now, sadly the police, some politicians and others and even the media are going overboard with this act of a few people stepping on Najib’s face in a photo. (Remember, different people have different ways of expressing themselves. Some of us may not agree with the methods used and may not do it ourselves. But should we also make it a criminal act that warrants the police taking action? I think we should not.)

Having perused the photo on the internet, I noted that it was a picture of Najib and Hadi (the Pas president). Initially, the news seemed to just focus on stories that people were stepping on Hadi’s picture.

Why? Was it intended to break the opposition against Najib and the BN government – by maybe trying to make it a ‘racial’ or ‘religious issue’? Remember, some even tried to make us think that the Bersih 4 protest was primarily a Chinese Malaysian protest and that not many Malays supported it. Some reports were even saying it was a ‘DAP Chinese’ affair?

All these are just attempts to divide Malaysians using ethnicity and race and even political affliation​s​. Bersih 4 was an initiative of civil society, not the opposition political parties, and the object​ives​ of the protest w​ere​ also clearly spelt out.

There are so many laws in Malaysia – and it is so easy to find an applicable law to go after any individual action. Now the police say that the photo-stepping incident is being investigated under Sections 290 and 504 of the Penal Code.

READ MORE:  NGOs stand in solidarity with individuals being silenced or censored for dissent

290 Punishment for public nuisance
Whoever commits a public nuisance in any case not otherwise punishable by this Code shall be punished with fine which may extend to four hundred ringgit.

504 Intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace

Whoever intentionally insults, and thereby gives provocation to any person, intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause him to break the public peace, or to commit any other offence, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.

What about the statement our Prime Minister​ made​ describing​ the participants and organisers:

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has described the organisers and participants of the illegal Bersih 4 rally as ‘shallow and poor’ in their patriotism…’ – (Bernama, 29 August 2015)

Is that also not an ‘intentional insult’ that warrants investigation under s504 of the Penal Code? One wonders.

So many of the people in power and their friends have done things far worse. Remember, the very reason tens of thousands came out to the streets to exercise their rights was because they were ‘provoked’ into action by the failings of the government and its leaders.

The police should already be busy with their investigation of the alleged corruption against Najib Razak. They really should not be wasting time on this photo-stepping issue, which after all, in my opinion as argued above,​ is a legitimate act of ​self ​expression. Furthermore, though not needed, there already have been apologies tendered.

READ MORE:  Protect freedom of speech and expression - Suhakam

Let us start respecting freedom of expression, opinion and peaceful assembly. And remember, everyone has these rights – not just the government and the people in power.

Source: charleshector.blogspot.com

Thanks for dropping by! The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

Our voluntary writers work hard to keep these articles free for all to read. But we do need funds to support our struggle for Justice, Freedom and Solidarity. To maintain our editorial independence, we do not carry any advertisements; nor do we accept funding from dubious sources. If everyone reading this was to make a donation, our fundraising target for the year would be achieved within a week. So please consider making a donation to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB Bank account number 8004240948.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
1 Comment
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Giog
Giog
19 Sep 2015 11.29am

Thanks Hector,
That was informative and educational on aspects of legality. Its a service that serves to enlighten people like us. And it comes with no strings attached. No buses to board on, no nasi bungkus need to be offered, no RM3 million or 300RM, even some abusive racial slurs to entertain Najib’s ‘Bangsats’ around. I hope an apology from Najib’s photo stampers will be more than adequate for everyone, if the rakyat can have their say. By the way, has the police any news yet on investigation of the LGE effigy burners in Kote Baru? I suppose for ‘Kangkong community, with Kangkong brains’, it is a legitimate right that no one should even question, amok running emotional outbursts.