Appeals Court judgment unacceptable and comical: Zunar

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Zunar views the latest court judgment as part of the government’s machinations to stop him from drawing cartoons to expose its corruption and wrongdoing.

zunar having lunch in Sepang
Zunar having lunch at the police station in Sepang in 2010 as his wife Fazlina looks on

The Appeals Court of Malaysia on 1 November 2013 dismissed my appeal against the High Court decision last year which ruled that the police have a right to arrest and detain me under the Sedition Act for publishing my comic book “Cartoon-O-Phobia”.

The Appeals Court also upheld the lower (court’s decision that the confiscation of my book) was illegal and ordered the police to return the books and compensate me for them.

To me, this judgement, as the one before, is unacceptable and comical. How could the judges rule that my detention was legal but the confiscation of my book was illegal?

Mind you, I am the author of the book. If the book is okay and not banned, why was I, the author, arrested and detained? What offence did I commit?

The judges, Justice Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim, Mohd Arif Md Yusof and David Wong, said that the police have cause for suspicion that the book was seditious, but shouldn’t that suspicion have had a concrete basis? Under what logical grounds did the police declare that my cartoon book was seditious, thus giving them the right to detain me?

At the time of my detention, “Cartoon-O-Phobia” was just about to be launched and not available in the open market yet. If the police thought there were any suspicious elements about the book, they could have at least asked me for a few copies, inspected the contents, and then declared the book illegal and charged me. That would have been a fair and acceptable process to all parties. Instead, the police raided my office, seized the book, and right there and then arrested me, before knowing the content of my book.

This is clearly an abuse of power by the police. By condoning my arrest under the Sedition Act for producing a comic book, the government has essentially classified drawing political cartoons in Malaysia as a crime. And, no surprises, the High Court Judge and the three Appeals Court judges confirmed it.

I will give three copies of my latest cartoon book, “The Pirates of the Carry-BN”, to the three judges as a present and hope they will go through them to understand what political cartooning is all about. Because if judges don’t understand the work of cartoonists, how can cartoonists get justice?

I view the latest judgment as part of the government’s machinations to stop me from drawing cartoons to expose their corruption and wrong-doing. Seven of my cartoon books have been banned, my office in Kuala Lumpur was constantly raided, and the printers and vendors for my books were threatened not to print my book or they may lose their licences.

Why? Because a corrupt government fears cartoons. The fight through cartooning will go on!

THE BACKGROUND

On 24 September 2010, I was arrested and jailed for two days over the publishing of my then new comic book, Cartoon-O-Phobia. I was investigated under the Sedition Act, which carries a maximum of a three-year jail term if found guilty.

The detention was made several hours prior to the launching of the comic book. I then filed a suit to challenge the Malaysian government on the grounds that the arrest was made in bad faith, mala fide, and not according to the law. This is based on the fact that when the arrest was made, the books were not available in the market yet.

In my suit, I claimed general, aggravated and exemplary damages, losses from an art collage and the 66 books confiscated during the raid, and loss of earnings from the inability to sell books.

In his ruling in July last year, the Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Justice Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera ruled that the detention was lawful, even though in another part of the judgment, the court had instructed the police to return all my books and drawing and pay damages.

Zunar, Malaysia’s foremost political cartoonist, is the recipient of the Courage In Editorial Cartooning Award from Cartoon Rights Network International.

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