LoyarBurok Defence Team – Pushing the Frontiers of Free Speech

Cartoonist Zunar and Malaysiakini have on 26 July 2010 filed two suits in the Kuala Lumpur High Court to challenge the bans on books, “1 Funny Malaysia” and “Perak Darul Kartun”, claiming that the bans are illegal and infringe free speech rights guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

The LoyarBurok Defence Team (i.e. LoyarBurokkers) is acting for Zunar and Malaysiakini, and will see Fahri Azzat, Amer Hamzah Arshad, Edmund Bon, Edward Saw, K. Shanmuga and Aston Paiva going toe-to-toe with the Government’s lawyers in an attempt to push the frontiers of your free speech in Malaysia.

Below is Malaysiakini’s report on the same.

Joseph Sipalan

26 July 2010

Zunar, Malaysiakini file suit against Home Ministry

Cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque and Malaysiakini have filed two suits in the Kuala Lumpur High Court today against the Home Ministry, to challenge the ban imposed on two books of political cartoons, claiming the ban is illegal and an infringement of the rights of free speech guaranteed by the federal constitution.The suits also claim that the ban on the books 1Funny Malaysia and Perak Darul Kartun breached the rules of natural justice and was not done fairly, as neither Zulkiflee nor Malaysiakini were given reasons for the move.

Both suits seek a removal of the ban, as well as damages incurred over loss of business resulting from the ban.

NONE Zulkiflee, popularly known as Zunar, said the ban imposed under the Printing Presses and Publications Act is an attempt to suppress political expression and to curtail the free exchange of opinions and ideas amongst Malaysians.

“It is our view that such a ban is unnecessary in a democratic society like Malaysia,” he said at a press conference after filing the suits at the Kuala Lumpur court complex in Jalan Duta.

Zunar (left) noted that this is the first time in Malaysia’s history that political cartoon books have been banned from circulation.

“As a cartoonist, I am the first to challenge the KDN (Home Ministry) on banning the book,” he added.

“Procedure not followed”

Malaysiakini chief executive officer Premesh Chandran said the ban, allegedly for being “prejudicial to public order,” was unfair to both publications as the government has not given a clear explanation for the move.

NONEThey also did not give Zunar and Malaysiakini the opportunity to respond.

“After the books were seized, Malaysiakini wrote to seek a dialogue with the ministry but they did not reply. The onus is on the Home Ministry to seek a dialogue, not the other way around,” he said.

The ministry had pulled Malaysiakini‘s 1Funny Malaysia and ‘Perak Darul Kartun, published by Zunar’s own company Sepakat Efektif Sdn Bhd, off the shelves on June 24 this year.

Home Ministry secretary-general Mahmood Adam said the two books were banned as they were “not suitable and detrimental to public order.”

He was reported to have said that the books could influence the public to rise up against the leaders and government policies.

Zunar said prior to the banning, Perak Darul Kartun (Perak, Land of Cartoons), had chalked up sales of around 20,000 copies and was in its third print, while 1Funny Malaysia moved 5,000 copies and had just entered its second print.

Premesh [right, in picture] pointed out however that the two suits will each challenge the ban on slightly different grounds.

He said the banning of 1Funny Malaysia “does not make sense” as prior to its publication, all the cartoons contained in the book had been published online without any repercussions. Perak Darul Kartun, meanwhile, features fresh material by Zunar.

Both Zunar and Malaysiakini will be represented by lawyers Fahri Azzat, Edmund Bon, Amer Hamzah Arshad, Edward Saw, K Shanmuga and Aston Paiva.

The court has yet to set a date to hear the applications.

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