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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26, 2016:

The culture of filing defamation suits has got to stop, with politicians urged to take criticisms “in stride”.

Former Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim said the decision to go into politics was one that needed a “heavy dose” of humour with the expectation that there would be accusations hurled.

“Take them in your stride.

“Do not be like Datuk Seri Najib Razak who gets upset with Zunar for his world-famous cartoons and caricatures of Malaysian leaders.

“Do not be like Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak who wants to ban anything on the Internet that he thinks will cause embarrassment to Barisan Nasional leaders,” he said in a blog post today.

He named newly-formed Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) leaders as those who should introduce this more moderate culture, particularly lawmaker Khalid Samad.

Khalid had sued former Gopeng Umno Wanita chief Datuk Hamidah Osman over a caricature that depicted him as Christian priest, which came after Khalid displayed himself as the voice of moderation in dealing with the church-burning incident several years ago.

In the case, Hamidah was ordered to pay the Shah Alam MP RM200,000 in damages, of which she had paid him only half after auctioning several household items.

Hoping that Khalid would forgive Hamidah, Zaid said Amanah leaders should set a different example from Umno leaders.

“They must show that they are interested in preserving free speech and that it is not their priority to stifle criticism and even insults; and even where those criticisms are untrue or defamatory, they should refrain from seeking large amounts of money in compensation.

“Cartoons and caricatures can’t really hurt anyone of great stature and reputation — besides, the reputation of a public figure is best preserved by the things he or she does in the service of the public.

“Depicting Khalid as a Christian priest was outrageous but equally too far-fetched for anyone to believe to be true. I suppose Hamidah was merely trying to convey the message that Khalid was a Christian sympathiser, which was a stupid thing for her to do and lacked common sense, but I do not think of it as anything so malicious as to warrant such a large amount in compensation,” he added.

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