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Friday, April 24, 2009

The Index On Censorship Award

A big thank you for the very kind and generous congratulatory messages over the past few days.

The Index on Censorship started out as a magazine in 1972. Founded by a group of journalists, writers and artists, the aim of the publication was to provide a platform for views in defence of the freedom of expression. Over the years, it has featured the writings of an impressive list of distinguished writers and thinkers that include Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Milan Kundera, Vaclav Havel, Nadine Gordimer, Noam Chomsky and Umberto Eco (Wikipedia)

Since then it has evolved. As Index says of itself, “Index on Censorship is Britain’s leading organisation promoting freedom of expression. Our award-winning magazine and website provide a window for original, challenging and intelligent writing on these vital issues around the world. Our international projects in media, arts and education put our philosophy into action.”

The Index on Censorship launched the Freedom of Expression Awards in 2000 to recognize free expression activity around the world and to honour those who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of free expression. Since 2000, the awards have grown and are now awarded in five categories: New Media (supported by The Economist). Law and Campaigning (supported by Bindmans), Journalism (supported by The Guardian), the Index Film Award and the T R Fyvel Book Award.

The first Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award was initiated in 2007. The award is given to lawyers or campaigners “who have fought repression, or have struggled to change political climates and perceptions. Special attention is given to people using or establishing legal precedents to fight injustice.”

The first recipient of the award was Siphiwe Hlophe, a Swazi activist who co-founded Swazis For Positive Living (Swapol) in 2001 when she was abandoned by her husband and lost an agricultural economics scholarship when she tested positive for HIV. Swapol campaigns against gender discrimination related to HIV/Aids as well as provides assistance to persons living with HIV/Aids

In 2008 it was awarded to U Gambira (pseudonym), the leader of the All-Burma Monks Alliance, which organized and spearheaded the nationwide protests in 2007. He was detained in November 2007 and is still under detention.

I only came to know that I had been nominated and had been shortlisted when an associate alerted me. In the same way, I came to know who it was that had nominated me much later: Peter Noorlander, legal director of the Media Legal Defence Initiative, an organisation that works globally to help journalists and small media outlets defend their rights. He was formerly of Article 19, a human rights organization that works around the world to protect and promote the right to free expression. I have had the privilege of collaborating with Peter.

The shortlist for the 2009 Award had three other nominees, all very distinguished in their own right: Gamal Eid (Egypt), Harrison Nkomo (Zimbabwe) and Harry Roque (Phillipines).

The recipient of the award was to be announced at an Awards Dinner held in London on the 21st of April. I could not attend the dinner as I was scheduled for hearings in court through the week. Peter Noorlander was kind enough to represent me and to e-mail me as soon as it was announced (“You won”).

This is how Index describes my selection:

“Malik Imtiaz Sarwar is a leading human rights lawyer and activist and the current president of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM). Imtiaz has been a central figure in fighting lawsuits brought against journalists and bloggers, and was the lead counsel for Raja Petra Kamaruddin, popular blogger and editor of Malaysia Today, whose release he secured last year. In August 2006, a poster declaring him to be a traitor to Islam and calling for his death was circulated in Malaysia. He has proposed setting up an inter-faith council, and spoken in a series of public forums on the need for religious freedom.”

As far as I know the selection was based entirely on an independent assessment of my efforts. I was not contacted by anyone from Index or associated with the awards nor was I requested to submit any materials to the selection panel. It appears however that the panel of judges was acquainted with my body of work.

In conjunction with the event, I was asked to contribute a comment for the Guardian. This was the piece entitled “The Truth About Malaysia” that has been reproduced on various Malaysian soc-pol sites.

As I said in an interview with Deborah Chong of the Malaysian Insider, I am happy to have been nominated and given the award. It presented an opportunity to bring to light the Malaysian situation, one that sadly in the view of dispassionate and objective third parties fits into the parameters of the award.

But then, that should really not come as a surprise, all things considered.

The cause is however one that is worth all the pain and suffering it might entail, a sentiment that I had the opportunity of expressing in the acceptance speech (that Peter was kind enough to read out for me) in this way:

“Being a public interest advocate is at times one of the loneliest things that one can do. Standing up against systemic repression and populist sentiment is not the most popular thing one can do. And yet, it must be done. In the short period that Malaysians stopped doing so, we lost the Rule of Law. The consequences of this failure is the legacy that younger Malaysians have inherited.

The award tonight is a reminder that no matter the specific nature of our respective struggles, the underlying causes are universal. The truths that define us in Malaysia are the same as those that define our friends in Egypt, Zimbabwe, the Phillipines or any other place. We each want to believe that each of our futures is limited only by our ability to dream.”

We must all keep on reaching for the stars. Our futures are written in them.



Richard Loh said...


Yes, we must all keep on reaching for the stars.

Pauline Leong said...

Dear Sir

I am a former lawyer, legally trained but no longer practising law. I am now in the tertiary education field, teaching communications, ethics and law to young minds.

When I was a law undergrad, I studied Public & Constitutional Law without fully understanding its impact and ramifications. It was just another subject that I had to pass for exams.

However, after graduation, I've come to realise how important public law is, and how it fundamentally affects all of us. I salute you for taking a stand and defending my rights and the rights of all fellow Malaysians.

Yes, at times, you may feel alone in your struggle against an unjust system, but know that there are many silent Malaysians out there who are supporting you all the way.

Sometimes we don't know what to say or how to say it, but we thank you for your sacrifice.

Old Fart said...

Congratulations Imtiaz. Most certainly well deserved and long delayed!

LAT said...

Malik "The Shinning Star",

Glory to be the one who Seeks Righteousness & Uphold Justice !

Continue to let your light so shine before man that they may see your good work.

Anonymous said...

A most deserving recognition for one who has brought Joy to humble beings like us who believe in the freedom of expression & our responsibility to fight repression. We are happy that this award inevitably draws attention to the judicial climate in the country, apart from the noble causes that you stand for. Salute! Lam (K K'ning).

Kim Low said...

Malaysians are lucky to have fighting for their cause of a just and fair society someone who has shown incisiveness of thinking and lucidity in writing which are apparent from your postings in MT blog. My congratulations to a well deserved accolade and hope that this would give you a platform to bring to the attention of the international community the rapid disintegration of the rule of law in Malaysia and the systematic undermining of its

Dash said...

Truly an inspirational piece. Thank you, Malik for steering our ship toward the stars.

Vithia said...

Congratulations. It's well deserved...

Thank you for making a difference.

Unknown said...

Dear Encik Malik,


You are truly an Anak Bangsa Malaysia that we are all proud of.

That you chose the rocky road, the one few would dare to trod and to speak from a pure heart that loves justice and freedom of expression, that you persevered through it all despite the flak, the loneliness, the rebuke, the scorn only because you always hold on to truth and your dream as you perseveringly reach out for the stars, is an inspiration not only to Malaysians but to every human being who shares your ideals.

You truly deserve the accolades and this award and together with other Malaysians and your international associates, I rejoice with you.

May you continue to be blessed with wisdom, understanding and guidance from above.

Best wishes,

Yvonne Young said...


May God bless you with more wisdom and abundant life.

anna brella said...

To Malik Imtiaz Sarwar:

I am delighted to know that you were chosen as the winner of this worthy award in the Law and Campaigning category.

I offer my congratulations, and agree that you should definitely keep on reaching for those highly illuminative stars!

"Imagine Power To the People" John Lennon.

Doreen Ong said...

Congratulations Malik! You well deserved the recognition.

Bobby said...

MIS, you'll never be alone.
The people of Malaysia who know what is right will always stand by you.
To start with, you have my support.

ahoo said...

No amount of words nor praises from anybody can replace the joy you have within in knowing that there are people from afar knowing your current stand and struggle.

Indeed what you leave behind for the future generations will be a legacy for all that you'd have been doing. What you had stand for is also woven into our lives as we all stand for a just and fair Malaysia who call this nation their only home.

As Winston Churchill said,... " We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." This statement is so apt for you, Tuan Malik, as you have had stood your grounds on so many cases that many in your royal profession would have compromise.

But that is not what you were created for and I thank God for giving us someone who not only walk the talk but also inspire others to do likewise. May the legal profession turns out more fine lawyers that are able to stand their ground and let not the constitution be trampled with impunity.

Gan said...

Congrats !

P.S. I pray that you never surrender to the establishment !

susan loone said...

Congrats, Malik!
Sorry for the late wishes.
Always enjoyed reading your stuff.
Hope you carry on as courageous as ever.

Anonymous said...

Dear Malik,

Good on you mate.
Have been an admirer for some time now.
Keep articles from papers written by you.
Would be tremendously honoured if I met you personally.

James Peter

juz anothermalaysian said...

Congrats, hope your journey continues to greater height.....

Pratamad said...

CONGRATULATIONS! You are well deserved for it.

It is ironic that lately this prize of yours and Amiga's Award for International Women of Courage have come to Malaysia, for the wrong reasons - Malaysia is not well.

We must continue the long journey...

AK said...


urchin said...

Dear MIS


AND TOO DETERMINED TO BE DEFEATEDKeep on shooting the moon, even if you miss, you'll land among the STARS!


S_OMBOU019XXX3777 said...

Dear Malik,
I followed your work ever since I saw you on tv taking on Nazri & Khairy.
I must say you have gone from strength to strength since then, may you find the fortitude to go on.
Congrats brother.

Anonymous said...

The only correct conclusion to draw from the Wikileaks document leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald is that it is objectively likely that Anwar Ibrahim did engage in an unlawful act of sodomy in Malaysia for which he was charged.

The leaked document says nothing about whether the allegation applies to the current charge or the previous one for which he was convicted.

The evidence is based on a confidential document from Lee Kuan Yew to Australia and its intelligence apparatus the Office of National Assessment (ONA) based on communications intercepts by Singapore's intelligence apparatus of official Malaysian government communication traffic.

There is more to be said of that leaked document. Singapore actively spys on Malaysia's government. It is an admission of illegal conduct against a friendly country.

Additionally one has to remember that Lee Kuan Yew was a spy for the Japanese during World War 2 even though the Kepmpetai murdered many of his Chinese colleagues in Singapore and in Nanjing China.

The third and most potent point raised by this leaked document and why it must be used against Anwar Ibrahim is that Anwar was so ready to use the Lingham tape to hang Lingham and the then Chief Justice Fairuz without giving either of them the benefit of a response and before the tape itself could be authenticated.

The evidence of Lee Kuan Yew and Australian intelligence is far more credible than a thousand Anwar Ibrahims.

What's needed now to be determined is whether his daughter and wife can be trusted.

It is going to be difficult for a woman who claimed such intimate and passionate knowledge about this man (a chameleon) a spouse and father when something as intimate as his alleged bi sexuality was always an issue. Anwar and Pakatan have been screwed forever.

Gopal Raj Kumar did an analysis of the Lingham tape in which it warned on the reliance of such leaked documents. Anwar did not listen. It has now come to bite him in his behind.

Anwar's wife was the subject of a blurry film posted once on the internet where she was secretly filmed being intimate with a white journalist. Now whether that was genuine a document of her infidelity or not is debatable because the veracity of the document was not openly tested. The same with the Lingham tapes which Anwar released first then sought to be tested.

We have to ask therefore who ordered or influenced the judges in Malaysia's Federal Courts to overturn the Anwar sodomy conviction number 1. What is the impact on all of this on Raja Petra Kamaruddin the blogger who swears to what is clearly now a pack of lies. Should he be extradited to face trial for incitement, criminal defamation, treason and other criminal breaches?

Gopal Raj Kumar