GEORGE TOWN: Political cartoonist Zunar has urged the government not to “blacklist” artistes who criticised them in the open, saying these celebrities “are merely voicing the concerns of the people”.
He was referring to a statement yesterday by Rizal Mansor, who is the prime minister’s aide, following a Twitter message by veteran singer Sheila Majid.
Sheila’s tweet spoke of the high cost of living, debts and the weak ringgit.
Rizal said artistes should not become a tool of the opposition, adding that some artistes were used for ceramah by the opposition during the 2013 general election campaign “but were forgotten once the elections were over”.
In a press conference with Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng in Komtar today, Zunar said he was now concerned over Sheila’s welfare, as she would likely be blacklisted and prevented from performing in public again.
“Please do not put pressure on these artistes. They are merely voicing the concerns of the people and are not members of the opposition.
“They are speaking up about what ordinary folk are already thinking. These are bread-and-butter issues. You cannot punish artistes just for expressing their views.
“The government must respect the rights of artistes to speak their mind. Do not stifle their views and blacklist them,” he said.
Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, said he was concerned these artistes will not be able to perform on TV in Malaysia or participate in other events.
Sheila was the third artiste in a matter of days to voice out their concern.
On Monday, popular TV host Aznil Nawawi posted a message on Instagram, posing a series of questions to Prime Minister Najib Razak on the goods and services tax (GST) and the weak ringgit, among other things.
Over the weekend, actress Nur Fathia Abdul Latiff had criticised the report by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Bank Negara Malaysia’s foreign exchange trading losses in the early 1990s, which had implicated former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Meanwhile, author Faisal Tehrani defended the artistes, saying they are citizens like every other Malaysian.
“Why can’t Sheila Majid and other artistes express their views? They have the right to express themselves. In fact, it is their duty to do so.
“In a democratic country, responsible artistes are expected to make commentaries on socio-political and economic issues.
“Real artistes are those who use their talent to represent the underpriviliged,” he said.