Govt ordered to pay Zunar RM1,000 in compensation for comic book ban

Cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque poses for the camera at the Best Western Hotel, Petaling Jaya, October 2, 2015. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque poses for the camera at the Best Western Hotel, Petaling Jaya, October 2, 2015. — Picture by Choo Choy May

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — Cartoonist Zunar was granted RM1,000 in damages after his book Sapuman: Man of Steal was prohibited from being distributed and sold for 10 months by the Home Ministry two years ago.

Counsel Zaid Malek, who represented Zunar, whose real name was Zulkiflee SM Anwarul Haque, said Senior Assistant Registrar Firdaus Sidqi Sharil Azli ordered the government to pay damages after the order to prohibit the distribution and sale of the book dated Oct 3, 2017 was revoked on Aug 2 last year

“The court allowed general damages of a nominal sum of RM1,000 but not for special damages,” he told reporters after the decision on the damages today.

The proceedings in chambers was also attended by Senior Federal Counsel Jamilah Jamil for the Defence Minister and the Malaysian Government as respondent. Zunar was not present at the proceedings today.

On Feb 12, 2018, the High Court granted leave for a judicial review to Zunar.

However, during the hearing for the application for judicial review on Aug 9, 2018, the High Court here was told that the Attorney-General’s Chambers had received a letter from the Home Ministry yesterday which confirmed that the prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had lifted the ban on the book since last Aug 2, the same year.

The letter stated that Dr Mahathir, who was then Home Minister, had decided to lift the ban on the book Sapuman: Man of Steal, which was gazetted on Oct 3, 2017.

The court also allowed damages to be paid to the cartoonist from the time the ban came into effect.

Zunar as the applicant, filled the application Jan 2 last year, seeking to, among others, revoke the Home Minister’s order, dated Oct 3, 2017 on the book ban, and a declaration that the order was unconstitutional and ultra virus under Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

In the supporting affidavit, Zunar said he had launched his new book, which was on current political issues in Malaysia, at the Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on Sept 13, 2015.

The cartoonist claimed that the Home Minister, through the Federal Government Gazette, issued an order under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 prohibiting the publication, import, production, publication, sale, distribution and possession of the book throughout the country. 

Zunar also claimed that the gazette stated the reason for the ban was that his book could jeopardise public order and the people’s mindset. — Bernama

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