An activist group of graphic artists in Malaysia has launched an online poster campaign to demand media freedom after the government ordered the closure of several websites and blogs that have been reporting about a corruption scandal involving the prime minister.
Grafik Rebel Untuk Protes & Aktivisme (Grupa) said the campaign aims to inspire the public to support the work of independent journalists:
We feel that the time has come for Malaysians to demand for media and internet freedom in light of the latest assault on freedom of speech in Malaysia. It is thanks to such tactics many journalists from independent portals face a tough time when covering ruling party lawmakers and the reporters from the mainstream media are often dubbed government lapdogs.
Since January, the Malaysian government has blocked three news websites and three socio-political blogs. It blocked the Medium and Asia Sentinel news websites for carrying a report originally published by Sarawak Report about the corruption scandal involving Prime Minister Najib Razak. The Sarawak Report was banned in Malaysia in 2015. Two weeks ago, The Malaysia Insider was blocked for allegedly posting an ‘unverified’ information regarding the corruption case of Najib.
Najib is accused of receiving more than 600 million US dollars from a state-run investment firm. Najib denies this and claims that the money in his banks was a political donation from a royal family in the Middle East. The issue sparked massive protests in Malaysia and some of Najib’s allies even called for his resignation.
Activists and opposition leaders believe the suspension of some newspapers and the blocking of websites are part of the government’s attempt to hide information about the corruption case.
Even social media users are targeted by authorities. The blogs OutSyed The Box, Din Turtle and Minaq Jingo Fotopages were blocked for being critical of the government. The Malaysian Communications And Multimedia Commission (MCMC) threatened Internet users who are sharing satirical clown memes of Najib. Interestingly, it was also Grupa which popularized the clown memes after police warned an activist artist that the latter is being monitored for tweeting a clown image of Najib.
Grupa’s campaign against censorship promotes the hashtags #freethemedia and #bebasmedia (free the media).
Below are some of the posters uploaded on Grupa’s Facebook and Twitter pages: