An offence to use caricatures? — Lim Sue Goan
JUNE 1 — A picture tells a thousand words and the picture here might refer to a wonderful photo or a political cartoon.
In the US, the president and politicians are always the subject of political cartoonists’ work.
On January 20, 2001, George W. Bush raised his left hand to take his oath as the US President and Vice-President Richard Cheney hastily whispered in his ear: “Raise the right hand, your right hand”. US Chief Justice William Rehnquist wore a 2000 presidential election campaign badge of Bush while Bill Clinton, standing in the distance, wiped his tears away and Albert Arnold was inspecting a Florida state ballot paper.
These are work of Seattle Postpolitical cartoonist David Horsey. He always portrays Bush, a former governor of Texas, as a clumsy person who has got drunk in university hostel life or relies on his father. Bush has always been portrayed with thin lips, bushy eyebrows and two very close eyes.
It has become a usual practice for cartoonists to take a dig at the president since the first US President George Washington’s administration. However, political cartoons are banned in Malaysia.
The Election Commission (EC) decided to take action against any political parties that use caricatures in their posters or banners to tarnish the image of political leaders in the next general election. The EC thinks that election is a serious event and such publicity materials are not solemn enough.
As a result, if political parties wish to convey a message, they might have to write hundreds of words on a banner. For example, if they wish to mention the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) scandal, they can no longer put up a politician’s caricature, but just a few cattle in an apartment.
Such a “clean” election becomes boring.
If the degree of irony of a cartoon does not go beyond the boundaries into personal attack, libel or slander, there would be no conflict with the law. The EC would not have to worry about it as the persons concerned and the authorities can take action if a cartoon has involved defamation, fiction or touched on social sensitivities.
I cannot help but relate the ban to political tolerance, self-cultivation and the question of freedom.
Because of the lack of tolerance, they use violence to attack each other. If they have enough political cultivation, even if they are provoked, they would not bother. More freedom would be granted only if they have generosity and self-confidence. And there are many prohibitions when they are feared and worried.
Although our national competitiveness ranking has risen to 14th place, even higher than some advanced countries, our political tolerance still remains at the Third World standard.
From another perspective, the EC’s move has also triggered a doubt of trying to avoid doing more work. Banning it could save time and effort.
There are actually precedents for such a mentality. For example, the Election Offences Amendment Bill 2012 proposed to expand the exclusion zone for non-authorised persons from 50m to 100m at polling stations and not allow election agents or candidates to be present at election booths, after EC secretary complained that election agents had interfered with their work at election booths.
In terms of cleaning the electoral roll, the EC recently launched the Electoral Roll Checking Month Campaign 2012 to allow voters to check and update their registered information for any mistake or inaccuracy. The problem is, would those who have purposely done something to the electoral roll take the initiative to correct the error?
Instead of worrying about the problem of demonising political leaders and candidates, it would be better for the EC to try to curb the problem of bribery, fraud and possible election-related violence.
The current top agenda would be to ensure a clean election. Hopefully, the EC will not put the cart before the horse. — mysinchew.com
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.