Following consent judgment, government to pay Zunar RM18,000

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The Malaysian government, bound by a court order today, has agreed to pay RM18,000 as compensation to award-winning political cartoonist Zunar for destroying his orginal political cartoon work seven years ago. Zunar has the story.

When the police raided my office and arrested me under the Sedition Act on 24 September 2010, they also confiscated the drawing which depicted PM Najib and his wife Rosmah, along with then newly-published book Cartoon-O-Phobia.

In November 2014, upon my suit, the Court of Appeal maintained the decision by the High Court in July 2012 which had instructed the police to return the drawing and the books to me. The original drawing was badly damaged when I received it.

The confiscation of cartoon artwork under criminal law, the Sedition Ac,t is a gross violation of a cartoonist’s rights and freedom of expression.

To keep the artwork in the police custody for five years and damage it is a more serious offence. It is clearly an act of intimidation and shows lack of respect for a work of art.

Today’s decision is not about the amount of the compensation, but serves as a lesson to the police and the Malaysian government that using criminal law arbitrarily to confiscate and destroy cartoon work is unacceptable, and was done in bad faith. It is also clear proof that the title of my book, Cartoon-O-Phobia, is a right description to describe the character of the Malaysian government.

I would also like to remind those concerned that there are currently more than 40 of my cartoon works still in police custody in Penang since November 2016 for an investigation under the Sedition Act. I will take legal action to compel the police to return them as they are. They have to be responsible for damages, if any.

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This goes the same for the 1,300 books which were confiscated by the Kuala Lumpur police, also in November 2016, because according to the police, they were “detrimental to parliamentary democracy”.

Background

Court: Nine charges under the Sedition Act, which carries maximum penalty for 43 years. (Has been postponed to 11 May.)

17 December 2016: Zunar was arrested under a new law for activities “detrimental To parliamentary democracy” which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years jail. 1,300 copies of his cartoon books were confiscated.

26 November 2016 – Zunar was arrested, detained and investigated under two laws: the Sedition Act and the Penal Code.

25 November 2016 – Zunar was forced to call off his exhibition in Penang (about four hours drive north of Kuala Lumpur) due to an attack by pro-government thugs.

17 October 2016 – Zunar was banned from travelling abroad by the Malaysian government.

2 April 2015 – Zunar was slapped with nine charges under the archaic Sedition Act and faces a possible 43 years imprisonment.

10 February: Zunar was arrested under the Sedition Act.

24 September 2010: Arrested under the Sedition Act.

Besides that, his office has been raided several times, his webmaster has been arrested, the printers who print his books have also been raided. Nine of his cartoons book have been banned.

Zunar is an internationally renowned award-winning Malaysian political cartoonist.

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