Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

August 1, 2012

Zunar Releases Strong Statement On Monday's Civil Court Decision In Malaysia; Vows To Fight On

The cartoonist Zunar released the following statement about the civil court decision Monday in Kuala Lumpur that declared lawful his detention in September 2010 under Malaysia's Sedition Act. Zunar was held on charges related to the publication of his comics collection Cartoon-O-Phobia.
I am extremely disappointed with the Malaysian High Court's ruling that my detention under the Sedition Act in September 2010 was according to the law.

imageOn the 24th of September 2010, I was arrested and jailed for two days just a few hours before the launching of my new comic book, Cartoon-O-Phobia.

I then filed a suit to challenge the Malaysian government on the grounds that the arrest was made in bad faith, mala fide, and unlawful.

But on the 31st of July 2012, the Kuala Lumpur High Court had held that the detention was lawful, based on the grounds that the police officers had reasonable grounds to suspect that the book was seditious. In the ruling, the high court clearly encourages police to use the power to detain anyone solely based on mere suspicion. This will help the Malaysian government to use more criminal laws to stop me from producing more cartoons that expose the corruptions by the Malaysian government.

The arrest was part of the modus operandi by the government to stop me from producing political cartoons unfavorable to them.

Prior to that, they started by confiscating my books in bookstores, but I continued to draw. That prompted the authority to raid my office, raid the printers and threatening them.

When all these still failed to stop me, they banned six of my books on the grounds that the contents are detrimental to public order. Finally, the detained me as a last resort.

The court has denied my fundamental right as a political cartoonist which contradicts the Malaysian Constitution that guarantees the freedom of expression to its citizen.

Even though in the other part of the judgment the court had instructed the police to return all my books and drawing and pay the damages, this 'play-safe ruling' does not impress me.

This ruling will not stop me, but will give me more strength to "Fight Through Cartoon."

I will appeal to the higher court soon. And I will keep drawing until the last drop of my ink.
As most of the wire stories have noted, Zunar received a favorable ruling on the confiscation of the books that came at the same time as the detention. I think the favorable ruling may have been a surprise, at least according to Zunar's own predictions in terms of whether he would see any satisfaction or not. That the cartoonist would pivot and hammer away at the remaining injustice rather than dwelling at all on the positive elements of the case is admirable to the extreme. Something that's intolerable is not made more tolerable by contextual circumstance. I also think he's right to place all of this in terms of a more extended campaign against the content of his political commentary -- the fact that the cartoonist has had difficulty finding printing partners, for instance, isn't a legal outcome but extra-legal, something that's developed out of the general wave of government intrusion into this artist's life.
posted 5:00 pm PST | Permalink

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