Why the government fears satire

The Nut Graph

WHY is the government charging someone for writing a satirical piece? On 2 Sep 2010, Irwan Abdul Rahman, a Malay Mail executive editor was charged over a blog posting entitled “TNB to sue WWF over earth hour.” Irwan’s posting on his website Nose4news was below a huge banner with the words “The truth is out there (Not in here).” The banner also featured a long-nosed Pinocchio, whose nose grows every time he tells a lie.

Screencap of Nose4News

Screencap of Nose4News

Irwan’s post was clearly satirical. It claimed that Tenaga Nasional Berhad would sue the World Wildlife Fund over its Earth Hour campaign. The campaign involved everyone switching off all their lights for one hour to raise awareness about climate change.

TNB’s president was quoted as screaming, “POWERRR…EXTREME!” in Irwan’s spoof news article, as well as telling “those green terrorists” that “we love our lights!”

Unfortunately, not everyone can take a joke. Irwan was hauled before the courts under the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA). He has been charged with allegedly posting a false blog entry “with the intention of causing hurt to the feelings of others”. Now, is satire really a crime?

Satire exempted

Satire, by definition, is often false. But used well, it can offer critique and insight on issues of the day. George Orwell for example, was not writing a true account of a bunch of pigs taking over the yard in his book Animal Farm. He was, in fact, critiquing the form of communism being practised in the Soviet Union at the time. The use of irony, sarcasm and wit sometimes works better at getting a point across than if it were said directly.

Satire has also been highly successful in news commentaries. Here’s The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart criticising US President Barack Obama for being wishy-washy in his response over the building of an Islamic cultural centre, misreported as a mosque, near ground zero in New York.

And here’s our very own satirical news programme That Effing Show commenting on Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam’s announcement on Muslim child marriages:


But the CMA says publishing false news on the internet is an imprisonable offence. Does that mean Malaysians are denied the use of satire as a literary device?

Read more at: http://www.thenutgraph.com/why-the-government-fears-satire/