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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Malaysia: Government Bans Critical Cartoons - Zunar

In Malaysia, political cartoons criticizing the government are labeled as a threat to national security. Last week, the Government of Malaysia banned three of my political cartoon books and magazines under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA).

On June 24, Home Ministry secretary-general Mahmood Adam said that “all three publications have been banned for their contents that can influence the people to revolt against the leaders and government policies.” He added that the contents are not suitable and detrimental to public order.

Last year, officials from the Home Ministry also raided my office in Kuala Lumpur and siezed my other magazine, Gedung Kartun (Cartoon Store) under the same act.

On February, hundreds of copies of Funny Malaysia and Isu Dalam Kartun were seized from vendors throughout the country.

The PPPA offenders are punishable by up to three years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 20,000 Malaysian Ringgit (about $6,250) for printing, importing, producing, reprinting, publishing, selling, circulating, distributing, offering to sell and possessing prohibited material or contents.

Funny Malaysia is a compilation of my work in the established independent web portal Malaysiakini.com , while Gedung Kartun and Isu Dalam Kartun are magazines that feature collaborated work between me and my team of cartoonists.

The artists involved includes Ronasina, Jonos, Art, Enot, Haili and a few others. These three publications contain 312 cartoons pieces and have been on the market since January with a 15,000 circulation each.

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration is tainted with three big issues; conspiracy against the former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu and the submarine scandal.

Anwar’s popularity is a threat to Najib’s political career, thus the administration concocted the infamous sodomy charge in order to send him to jail.

And the extra ordinary payment made by the government to the French company in the procurement of Scopenes submarines is also a largely talked about topic. The deal took place while Najib was a defense minister.

In relation to that, the murder of Altantuya, a translator in the deal, using an explosive C4 bomb is also a big issue. Even though Najib denied involvement in the case, the majority of Malaysian public think other wise.

Also, there are other hot issues such as the appointment of a Jewish company as an adviser to the Prime Minister, corruptions and cronyism, etc.

National newspapers bounded by the APPA, which requires newspaper owners to renew their license every year, black-out reports, articles or analysis regarding these issues, while most of Malaysian cartoonists choose to silence.

My banned cartoons highlight these subjects, and my intention is to give the correct perspective and information to the reader. It’s a duty for any political cartoonist to be a ‘watch dog’ to the authority and to represent the voice of the people through art.

The ground stated by the government that my cartoons are not suitable and detrimental to public order is peculiar. It’s funnier than the cartoon itself!

Corrupt politicians should blame themselves; Shooting the messenger does not make them clean. In democratic countries, the government should recognize the role played by political cartoonists in creating dissident views.

I reiterate, the banning of my books and magazines by the Malaysian government is politically motivated to block alternative thinking and critical voices. The action is also a mockery to press freedom and freedom of expression.

So far no charges have been brought against me and even if there are, it won’t affect my stance. I will continue drawing until the last drop of ink.


Zunar is the foremost political cartoonist in Malaysia and can be contacted at zunar49@gmail.com.


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