As I was shopping after the P.C. this evening to wait for the peak hours traffic to ease before going home, I had a brief voice mail from a colleague that said: "There will be a demonstration tomorrow. Don't come to work and email your stories in."
I was a little surprised but more curious. But I could already guess what the demonstration is about. NST got itself in `trouble' with a cartoon that links to the issue of caricature of Prophet Muhammad. But the cartoon did not contain the supposedly offensive caricature.
For those who missed it, the Non Sequitur cartoon by Wiley Miller showed a street-artist soliciting customers with a notice bearing the words: "Caricatures of Muhammad while you wait", while a boxed caption stated: "Kevin finally achieves his goal to be the most feared man in the world".
And this fuelled up certain parties, especially some Muslim groups and NGOs who really took exception to the cartoon. They wanted to make sure that NST could not get away with it. Some had lodged police report against NST and subsequently a show-cause letter was issued by the Internal Security Ministry. This was reported front-page in NST today.
This on-going fiasco, started by a caricature published in Danish newspaper, has been blown out of proportion if you ask me. May be it was not the wisest thing for NST to publish a cartoon linked to such a sensitive subject at this time, but I really could not understand the extent of the `hoo-haas' that followed..
It didn't help when certain prominent bloggers too seemed to be jumping on the band wagon to further fuelled up this issue.
I am saying this not because I'm working in the company. Already we saw what stern action that had been taken against Guang Ming Daily and Sarawak Tribune. Yes, we should respect each other's religion but like one of the comments I read from a blog on this issue, can people spell out what exactly is offensive about the cartoon by Wiley Miller? And how has it insulted the Prophet?
Anyway, I don't want to get into this debate further. My purpose of this post was to talk about the demonstration. To me, it is like a `historical' occurance, as in my 11 1/2 years working with NSTP and in the media, this would be the first time that such a thing is happening.
So, when I called back office to find out more after hearing the brief voice mail, I was told by a colleague that there was a brief meeting in the evening by the NST editors and we were advised not to go into office until after 5pm. I didn't find out who are the groups exactly that are going stage demonstration outside Balai Berita but apparently things might get violent and ugly.
When I reached home, I read an email from our CEO to all employees and it had a whole list of `rules' or guidelines regarding tomorrow. Apparently they learned that the demonstration would start after the Friday prayer and we were asked to keep away from office during that time. And if we happen to be in the vicinity, we are asked to not wear anything that identify us with NSTP group. Including taking away the NSTP parking sticker on our car.. in case it will get damaged!
I know these are all precautionary measures but they also sound kinda serious..
The few friends I mentioned this to actually think I'm lucky to be able to have a day off! Well, the timing is not good though cause I have quite a lot of work to finish and some stories are done half way in the office system.
Just hope that the demonstrators would be civilised and not blinded by emotions that run high. Lets hope and pray nothing unbecoming would happen tomorrow...