PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal’s decision to lift the ban on two cartoon books by political cartoonist “Zunar” and for all copies seized by the Home Ministry in 2010 to be returned to him, is maintained.
This follows the decision of the Federal Court’s five-member bench today chaired by Court of Appeal President Md Raus Sharif to unanimously dismiss the appeal by the Home Minister and Deputy Home Minister.
“In our view there is no merit in the appeal. We agree with the Court of Appeal. The appeal is dismissed,” said Justice Md Raus.
Responding to the verdict, Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee SM Anwarul Haque, told police they should now stop raiding his office and expressed his hope that the apex court ruling also extended to all 16 of his titles.
“This is a victory for all cartoonists, it tells the Home Ministry and the government that drawing cartoons is not a crime,” he was reported as saying in Malaysiakini.
He also said the authorities should not take action against him under the Sedition Act, nor arrest or detain him for his work and to stop pressuring him or others like him involved in the production, printing and sale of his book.
“Stop raiding my office, stop harassing my webmaster for selling the books online, and stop raiding and threatening printers and shops involved in the production and sales,” the news portal quoted him as saying.
In 2010, Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd, which operates the Malaysiakini news portal, and publisher Sepakat Efektif Sdn Bhd, on behalf of Zunar, filed two separate judicial review applications to challenge the banning of the two books and the seizure of copies of the books.
The books were titled “1Funny Malaysia” and “Perak Darul Kartun”.
Mkini Dotcom and Sepakar Efektif had named the home minister and deputy home minister as respondents in their judicial review application.
However, on July 14, 2011, the High Court held that the Home Ministry’s order to ban the books was legal and that the seizure of the books was justified under the Printing Presses Publications Act 1984.
The High Court dismissed the companies’ judicial review bid prompting them to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal, on October 9 last year, allowed their appeal and lifted the ban on the two books and ordered copies of the books, which were seized by the home ministry to be returned to Zunar.
Then Court of Appeal judge Mohd Ariff Mohd Yusof, who has since retired, had ruled that there was no plausible evidence of the books being a threat to public order.
The home minister and deputy home minister obtained leave of the Federal Court on May 12 this year to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s ruling.
Earlier, the panel which also comprised Federal Court judges Suriyadi Halim Omar, Abu Samah Nordin, Zaharah Ibrahim and Court of Appeal judge Balia Yusof Wahi heard submissions from senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan representing the appellants and counsel K Shanmuga for the companies.
Shamsul submitted that it was lawful for the Home Ministry to ban the books on grounds that the books were prejudicial to public order.
However, Shanmuga argued that the Court of Appeal had rightly considered that there was insufficient evidence of public disorder.
~ Free Malaysia Today