Zunar ticks off too-eager-to-please ‘free’ media

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s media must press new government leaders harder and encourage greater debate and critical thought among the public, says political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, who has been a fierce critic of former prime minister Najib Razak.

The cartoonist, better known as Zunar, said he feared for Malaysian media organisations, after noticing an about-turn in their coverage. “Have they really become free or are they just trying to please the new government? It seems everyone is sucking up to them,” he told FMT in an interview.

Zunar said the media were not giving government leaders a good enough “grilling”. The media suddenly appeared to view all Pakatan Harapan leaders in a good light.

“A free media is one that criticises the government of the day, not the opposition. The media can highlight leaders and ministers, but in some of the interviews I’ve seen, the answers provided just aren’t satisfactory and lack details.

“What we want is for media to encourage critical thinking among viewers and readers: the media should interview opposition leaders alongside ministers so that the opposition can criticise on the spot and the ministers can answer.”

He said this was the trend with good media outlets, citing the example of journalists such as Christiane Amanpour of CNN whose hard-hitting interview questions forced her subjects to be well prepared.

“We aren’t forcing ministers to be well prepared. What they talk about is too general and the media hails everything they say.”

Ministers should talk about their plans in more detail, and the media must press them to be more specific.

Zunar has faced police action in the past for his cartoons of Najib and his wife Rosmah. He said the government must not practicse censorship of artists and that artists themselves should not succumb to censorship.

He said the work of artists must be seen from an artistic viewpoint and not through terms of religion, politics or governance.

Zunar also urged the media to provide a platform for aspiring political cartoonists, and to no longer be afraid of censorship.

The Pakatan Harapan government has pledged to uphold press freedom in Malaysia, and announced plans to repeal oppressive laws such as the anti-Fake News Act, Sedition Act, Universities and University Colleges Act, and the Printing Presses and Publications Act.