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Allowing freedom of expression in arts scene a step forward

Allowing freedom of expression in arts scene a step forward
"Allowing freedom of expression in arts scene a step forward"

Authors and artists are critical elements in any society, and must be allowed to express themselves.

Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin said allowing freedom of expression in the Malaysian arts scene is a step forward.

He was referring to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s views that authors and artists should not be subjected to restrictions.

“This is an age-old saying about the arts versus the powers-that-be,” said Ghouse, who is attached to the School of Arts, Universiti Sains Malaysia.

“Arts is not just restricted to written works or poetry. It’s about theatre, dance, and the visual arts... the whole works.

“If that is sincere commentary (by Anwar), it’s good for the arts scene in Malaysia. There must be space (for artists and authors) to be critical. Artists have always been critical,” he added.

Malaysian cartoonists like Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, better known as Zunar, and graphic designer-cum-street artist Fahmi Reza had been, in the past, hauled up by enforcement agencies for their visual commentaries based on current issues and politics in the country.

Datuk Freddie Fernandez welcomed Anwar’s announcement, adding that it would give artists more freedom to express their views and become the “voice of the people”.

The Karyawan president said there had been cases of artists being questioned for making statements or for speaking out. He hoped the new ‘atmosphere’ would start immediately.

Karyawan is an association for over 6,000 artists and entertainment industry players.

“I welcome and applaud the prime minister for his statement,” said Fernandez.

“I don’t know what triggered him to say this, but it is good news for the artists, as they can be more creative in their works.”

Fernandez added that local artists know what they can or cannot do, and where to draw the line, but sometimes those in power jump the gun and accuse artists of breaking the rules.

“But now, we have more freedom to be creative. If what Anwar said is followed through, it would give artists more leeway when they write songs, music, and films,” he said.

“They can be more expressive and take on issues facing the rakyat – to be the voice of the people.”

He hoped that Anwar’s words would filter down to those in charge and not be a case of a leader saying one thing, and those down the line doing another.

Anwar, during the launch of a national seminar on the publication of books in Bahasa Melayu at the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, also said he wanted to see students in schools and universities adopt critical thinking.

Ghouse said critical thinking is a basic ingredient in the education process.

“The element of critical thinking... how to see a problem, and arrive at a solution... that’s very important,” said Ghouse.

He added that it was important for students in schools and higher learning institutions to learn about philosophy, adding that English and Bahasa Melayu should be allowed to flourish.

“There is also critical thinking in the sciences, in fact in all aspects of knowledge. It’s vital to construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct elements en route to addressing a problem,” he added.

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