Posts Tagged ‘Malaysia’

George Clooney: one man shows also carry risks..

May 14, 2019

I mentioned in a positive way George Clooney’s action in the human rights area, recently re Brunei [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/04/04/brunei-back-to-the-middle-ages-will-hotel-boycott-work/]. I believe his ‘instincts’ are good but there is always a danger with basically a ‘one-person’ outfit that there is insuffcient networking/research and that individual words trump wise statements. Michael Taylor for Reuters reports on 14 May 2019 that “George Clooney misfires among LGBT+ activists over ‘warning shot’ to Brunei neighbours“.  The key issue is that some Indonesian and Malaysian human rights defenders think that their countries – which have a modicum of democratic process compared to Brunei – should not be tarred with the same brush.

Oscar-winning actor George Clooney was criticised by LGBT+ activists after he called a boycott of luxury hotels owned by Brunei a “warning shot” to Indonesia and Malaysia should they consider introducing similar anti-gay laws.  “It sends a warning shot over to countries like Indonesia and Malaysia – who are also considering these laws – that the business people, the big banks, those guys are going to say ‘don’t even get into that business’.

But Clooney’s remarks sparked an online backlash as critics and regional LGBT+ activists pointed out major differences between Brunei and its Islamic neighbours. “I call on George Clooney and Hollywood to listen and work together with local activists and human rights defenders on the ground,” Numan Afifi, president of the LGBT+ advocacy PELANGI Campaign in Malaysia, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Local activists have been putting their lives at risk on the ground working, for years,” Afifi said. “His statement, while well-meaning, might also be counterproductive for our case.”

Dede Oetomo, one of Indonesia’s most prominent LGBT+ activists and founder of LGBT+ rights group GAYa NUSANTARA, also questioned Clooney’s comments. “Malaysia and Indonesia are larger entities and have some democratic processes that although not perfect, they work,” Oetomo said. “Pressure from within is more possible in both countries, though it is frustratingly slow and protracted.”

http://news.trust.org//item/20190514105512-1ox5t/

 

Profile of human rights defender Rizal Rozhan from Malaysia.

May 12, 2019

Interview with Rizal Rozhan, Advocacy and Capacity-Builder Officer of EMPOWER in Malaysia, published by ISHR back in December 2018.

On 26 April Numan Afifi must report to the police in Malaysia – smells like reprisal

April 24, 2019

On 16 April 2019, human rights defender Numan Afifi was asked by the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) to present himself on 26 April at the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman in relation to an investigation into a speech that he had delivered at the United Nations in Geneva last month.

According to the information received from  Front Line Defenders, Numan Afifi is a human rights defender who has advocated for LGBT+ rights in Malaysia. He has actively contributed to issues ranging from democracy to HIV advocacy through his involvement in the Pelangi Campaign, the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (COMANGO) and Challenger.

On 16 April 2019, the human rights defender was contacted by an inspector from the Classified Crimes Investigation Unit, which investigates cases that fall under the Sedition Act. Numan Afifi has been asked to present himself at the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman on 26 April 2019 to provide a statement regarding a speech presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva during the Consideration of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Outcome of Malaysia on 14 March 2019. The human rights defender has not been told whether the police investigation concerns his speech alone or if other civil society organisations present at the conference are involved as well. To date, no official charges have been lodged against him.

In Geneva, Numan Afifi read out a statement on the situation of LGBT+ rights in Malaysia. The statement, which was a response to Malaysia’s UPR submission, had been prepared by a coalition of 12 Malaysian organisations working on gender identity and sexual orientation. It commended the government on its acceptance of one of the recommendations regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and raised concerns about the rejection of the other 10. The statement also called for the government and civil society to have a dialogue on sexual orientation and gender identity.

[On 17 April 2019, a smear campaign has been launched against him by pro-government groups on social media, alleging that the statement he had presented at the UN conference contained inaccurate information. The human rights defender is being pressured to retract his claims regarding the existence of state-sponsored violence against LGBT+ people in Malaysia. In June 2017, Numan Afifi was barraged with online criticism, harassment and death threats after organising a “gay breaking fast” event during the month of Ramadan to show solidarity to the LGBT+ community.]

For some of many posts on reprisals: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/numan-afifi-summoned-questioning-police-over-speech-delivered-un

Satire as a weapon: Malaysian cartoonists showed the way

April 4, 2019

Having blogged about cartoonists as human rights defenders (se e.g.https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/19/urgent-award-winning-cartoonist-zunar-threats-malaysia-support/), it is a pleasure to refer to a long piece in CNN  written by James Griffiths on 29th March 2019: “The cartoonists who helped take down a Malaysian prime minister”. The story is enriched by many of the cartoons that landed the cartoonists in trouble.
For Malaysians, the figure pictured (below) is instantly recognizable as Rosmah Mansor, wife of disgraced former Prime Minister Najib Razak and — according to prosecutors in the US and Malaysia — a modern day Imelda Marcos who accrued luxury goods worth millions of dollars using money embezzled from the state investment fund, 1MDB.
A cartoon of former Malaysian first lady Rosmah Mansor by Zunar is seen in a gallery in Kuala Lumpur.

A cartoon of former Malaysian first lady Rosmah Mansor by Zunar is seen in a gallery in Kuala Lumpur. Credit: James Griffiths/CNN
Zunar‘s work welcomes visitors to “Democracy in Action,” a recent exhibition that would have been impossible to stage only a year ago.
Malaysian cartoonist Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, popularly known as Zunar, poses with handcuffs prior to a book-launch event in Kuala Lumpur on February 14, 2015.
Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, poses with handcuffs prior to a book-launch event in Kuala Lumpur on February 14, 2015. Credit: MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
..Just last year, it seemed almost certain that Zunar would end up in prison. A number of his books had been banned, and while his work was still widely shared online, the artist faced multiple charges of sedition and committing acts deemed “detrimental to parliamentary democracy.” Unknown assailants attacked him at a gallery show, police seized his works and he was banned from leaving the country. Then, in a shock election result, a coalition of opposition parties turfed Najib out of office, promising to clamp down on corruption and reverse the country’s turn toward authoritarianism. Now Zunar is watching as his the political figures who were once his nemeses and muses face decades behind bars themselves — in part because artists like him helped bring attention to their alleged corruption and disdain for the rule of law. “The medium of cartooning is (a) very powerful medium,” Zunar told CNN at his small studio in a Kuala Lumpur suburb. “Everywhere, in any country you go, (cartoonists) get killed. Cartoonists, get arrested, put in jail everywhere because of the medium.
Fellow artist Fahmi Reza, who also faced prosecution under Najib, said this is partly because of cartoons’ unique ability to poke fun at those in power. “Using satire and humor is effective because it breaks the fear barrier,” he said in a phone interview. “People had always been afraid to speak out. The culture of fear is always there; the culture of self-censorship is always there. That’s where satire and humor can be the most effective tool, it makes people less afraid.
In June 2016, Fahmi Reza was charged with two counts of violating section 233(1) of the Communications and Multimedia Act, which forbids disseminating online content deemed to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass others. Fahmi had depicted Najib as a clown with big red lips and arched, thick eyebrows. The image quickly caught on with Malaysians sick of the widespread allegations of corruption, and it soon became a common sight at anti-government protests.
A caricature of Malaysian Prime Minister by artist Fahmi Reza. The artwork almost landed Fahmi in prison.
A caricature of Malaysian Prime Minister by artist Fahmi Reza. The artwork almost landed Fahmi in prison. Credit: MOHD RASFAN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Like Zunar, Fahmi had a record of trouble with the authorities. ….. “One sign that whatever you’re doing is effective is when the authorities and people in power react,” he added. “If they ignore it, then there’s no impact. That’s how the whole clown thing became a symbol of protest — because of the overreaction by the authorities.
Both cartoonists’ arrests made international headlines, helping to highlight Najib’s growing authoritarianism to the outside world. Protesters also delighted in using the caricatures of Najib and Rosmah on posters and placards after it was revealed how much the artists had irritated them. As Malaysia’s opposition grew ever more determined to oust Najib — with many observers warning that 2016’s general election might be their last chance to do so — the government passed new legislation to control what people could say about it.
Activists hold up caricatures of Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor (center). Political art became a key tool of protest in Malaysia during Najib's rule.

Activists hold up caricatures of Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor (center). Political art became a key tool of protest in Malaysia during Najib’s rule. Credit: MOHD RASFAN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
In early 2018, it introduced a new law to crack down on “fake news” that critics said was so broadly defined that it could easily be used to shut down and criminalize criticism of Najib.
Eventually however, the wave of dissent was too great for Najib to overcome. ….Since Najib’s downfall, charges against Zunar and Fahmi have been dropped, though the latter is still fighting to have an earlier conviction overturned. Both men said that, while they felt considerably freer under the new government, true reform has yet to be delivered.
For some other posts on cartoons, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/cartoons/

Award winning Bersih 2.0 saw speech censored by Taiwan award giver

December 18, 2017

How sensitive human rights awards can be is shown again in the case of Taiwan’s Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award. The award (see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/asia-democracy-and-human-rights-award) is technically independent but closely related to the Government, which probably explains why the part concerning the “1MDB” corruption scandal in Malaysia  was deleted from Maria Chin Abdullah’s acceptance speech.

HR-award-1

[Parts of Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah’s acceptance speech when accepting the Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award in Taiwan last week were censored by organisers. A copy of the speech made available by the electoral reforms coalition today showed the censored portion was on state investment fund 1MDB and the allegations of corruption plaguing Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration. The section of the speech, titled “Unfettered corruption”, was removed “due to diplomatic sensitivity”, the coalition said.]

Bersih 2.0 received the Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award on 10 December 2017. The event was attended by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan Foundation for Democracy chairman Su Jia-chyuan, the foundation’s president Hsu Szu-chien and civil society leaders. Bersih 2.0 received earlier the Gwangju award: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/26/malaysian-bersih-2-0-walk-for-democracy-wins-gwangju-human-rights-award/

Maria in her speech also touched on the lack of freedom of expression, attacks against human rights defenders, and the government’s use of laws such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2015 (Sosma). She charged that hate politics was part of a strategy to vilify rights activists. “The politics of hate, religious intolerance and exclusion, which adversely affect the freedom and human rights, are used against human rights defenders. Yet, impunity against wrong doers is not addressed,” she said, adding that change was still a long road ahead“Malaysians’ voices are loud and clear – racial hostility, generated hatred, intolerance, violence and poverty have no place in our nation…Our clarion call: They can jail us. They can beat us up. But, they can never break our spirit”.

 

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/12/18/human-rights-award-taiwan-censors-bersih-chiefs-speech/

Malaysian Home Minister: Human rights defenders are “wolves in sheep’s clothing”

August 21, 2017

Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has criticised human rights defenders today, accusing them of defending criminals instead. While launching his book on the Prevention of Crime Act (POCA) 1959 today, the deputy prime minister reportedly alleged critics of the law often masquerade as human rights defenders. “They defend crime syndicates. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing,” he was quoted saying by news portal Malaysiakini. “They claim to defend human rights, but in court, they defend criminals accused by the authorities.”
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has put forth a definition of human rights defenders, two days after the deputy prime minister called them “wolves in sheep’s clothing who protect criminals”. Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail said such individuals were people who work towards the realisation of rights and freedoms contained in the Federal Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments through non-violent means. “The efforts of human rights defenders contribute to positive societal change and play an important role in the establishment of the rule of law. “They certainly cannot be said to be defending crime syndicates and criminals,” he said in a statement today.

Source: Home Minister: Human rights defenders siding with criminals in court | Malaysia | Malay Mail Online

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/home-minister-human-rights-activists-defend-criminals#uREoQ0H4g4AhbZYU.99

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/08/17/suhakam-human-rights-defenders-do-not-protect-criminals/

Malaysia: Human rights defender Lena Hendry convicted for showing film on Sri Lanka

February 23, 2017

In 2013 I reported on human rights defender, Lena Hendry, in Malaysia who was charged with showing the film “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka, a film on human rights violations in Sri Lanka.  [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/09/18/human-rights-worker-in-malaysia-to-appear-in-court-tomorrow-for-screening-the-film-no-fire-zone/#more-3469]. Now Front Line reports on 21 February 2017, that the human rights defender was convicted by the Magistrate’s Court in Kuala Lumpur [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/lena-hendry]. On 21 February 2017, Lena Hendry was found guilty by a magistrate’s court in Kuala Lumpur for screening “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” under Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act 2002. She is currently on bail and intends to appeal the court’s decision. Her sentencing is scheduled for 22 March 2017.

Lena Hendry is the former Programme Coordinator for Pusat KOMAS, a human rights organisation established in 1993 in Malaysia. This organisation works to empower indigenous peoples, poor people in urban areas, workers, and civil society organisations through the use of popular media. [On 10 March 2016, The Magistrates’ Court of Kuala Lumpur acquitted Lena Hendry of the charges but  on 21 September 2016, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur reversed Lena Hendry’s aquittal following an appeal issued by the prosecution.

Front Line Defenders condemns the conviction of Lena Hendry, as it believes that the charges brought against the human rights defender are directly linked to her legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights, in particular in exposing human rights violations in Sri Lanka. Front Line Defenders urges the Malaysian government to repeal provisions of the Film Censorship Act 2002 that allow unnecessary and arbitrary government interference in the showing of films in Malaysia.

 

 

 

 

Malaysian cartoonist Zunar says he will challenge the travel ban

October 18, 2016

immigration
Picture of me at the immigration counter at the airport – political Cartoonist Zunar

Zunar, an award-winning cartoonist whose cartoons are directed towards fighting the tyranny and corruption of the government of Malaysia, was turned back at the airport on 17 October 2016. [see https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/cartoonists-gado-kenya-and-zunar-malaysia-get-2016-cartooning-for-peace-prize/ and https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/urgent-award-winning-cartoonist-zunar-threats-malaysia-support/]. He is as talented with the written word as with drawings, so I let him speak for himself: Read the rest of this entry »

How awards can get it wrong: four controversial decisions in one week!

September 20, 2016

This blog regularly covers human rights awards [e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/human-rights-awards/]. Most of the awards end up with the right people or – if needed – decisions get corrected [e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/russian-protest-artist-pavlensky-stripped-of-havel-prize-over-support-for-violent-partisans/]. This week four controversial cases have come to the fore although they ‘fortunately’ concern more political kind of awards given to more political kind of people. Still instructive for those who consider giving awards: Read the rest of this entry »

Academic Freedom monitored by Scholars at Risk which celebrates its 15th anniversary in Montreal

May 27, 2016

Attacks on higher education threaten the safety and well-being of scholars, administrators, staff and students; undermine academic work and instruction; and deny everyone the benefits of expert knowledge and scientific and creative progress. Too often such attacks go unreported. Scholars at Risk (SAR) publishes an Academic Freedom Monitor which tracks key attacks with the aims of protecting vulnerable individuals, promoting accountability and preventing future violations. In the period February – April 2016  SAR reports 20 incidents:

Read the rest of this entry »