The Knuckleheads of the Day award
Today's winners are the Makkal Osai newspaper and Malaysia's Internal Security Ministry. They get the award for the following.
KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - The Malaysian government's decision to temporarily shut down a newspaper for printing a picture of Jesus smoking is a blow for free speech, opposition leaders and a media watchdog said Saturday.What the newspaper did was in bad taste, but I defend their right to do what they did. In two years of blogging, I've defended people who I very much disagree with, take for instance people like Cindy Sheehan and Ann Coulter, because I strongly believe in Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press. They are essential to have a free society. People talking about unpopular or controversial subjects, should have the right to do so. That doesn't mean they can't get a Knucklehead award from me if I feel they're nuts.
Malaysia's Internal Security Ministry on Friday ordered the Makkal Osai daily to stop publishing for one month after a picture appeared this week showing Jesus Christ clutching a cigarette and what appeared to be a beer can.
The Tamil-language newspaper has insisted that it printed the picture by accident after a staff member failed to spot that Jesus was apparently smoking.
The suspension "will only create a very chilling effect on free expression and is not conducive to creating a vibrant media space," said Lim Kit Siang, an opposition politician with the Democratic Action Party.
He said the matter should have been allowed to rest as there was no malice intended and Christian leaders had accepted the paper's apology.
Media freedom watchdog the Centre for Independent Journalism called the government decision "unwarranted and high-handed".
"That a suspension order can be so swiftly imposed and despite the paper having apologized ... indicate continual disregard for freedom of the press and that alternative expression on religion must not be tolerated," it said.
Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin later defended the government's actions, and said it was a reminder to all publications not to offend other religions.
"This also shows that the government does not only act against those who publish articles or pictures that offend the sensitivities of the Malays and Muslims," Bernama news agency quoted him as saying.
The picture, published on Tuesday, was used to illustrate an article on the sayings of great leaders, and ran with the quote: "If someone repents for his mistakes, then heaven awaits them."
The Malaysian government by shutting down the newspaper, I feel has crossed a line too. Not offending religious groups is noble, but I feel the government can't be deciding what is offensive and what isn't. Its a power that can be easily misused or abused. Some subjects are unpopular, but also correct. Winston Churchill railed against the dangers Nazi Germany posed before WWII but few British politicians or members of the public agreed at the time.(Or they just didn't care.) Color me libertarian when it comes to free speech and press.
The Makkal Osai newspaper and Malaysia's Internal Security Ministry are today's Knuckleheads of the Day.
Note- My wife disagrees with my giving the Internal Security Ministry an award. Guess I'll be sleeping on the couch tonight.
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