KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 — The Home Ministry today officially banned all elements of “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Plus (LGBTQ+)” on Swiss watchmaker Swatch’s timepieces and accessories, nearly three months after it seized 172 items in raids of the company’s stores in Malaysia.

In a statement today, the Home Ministry announced that it has gazetted a ban on “any publication related to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and + Plus (LGBTQ+) in any form appearing on Swatch watches of any collection including the boxes, wrappers, accessories or any other related things”.

According to the government gazette published today, the prohibition order was made on August 9, 2023 by Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail via his powers under Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, with the publisher of this banned publication named as “Swatch Limited, Switzerland”.

The prohibition order states that the “printing, importation, production, reproduction, publishing, sale, issue, circulation, distribution or possession” of Swatch watches with “LGBTQ+” “which is likely to be prejudicial to morality is prohibited throughout Malaysia”.

The Home Ministry also cautioned the public today that anyone who prints, imports, produces, reproduces, publishes, sells, issues, circulates, distributes, or possesses for such purposes the prohibited Swatch items would be committing an offence.

The Home Ministry said the penalty, upon conviction, would be a maximum three-year prison term or a maximum RM20,000 fine or both, based on Section 8(2) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

A check by Malay Mail of the Printing Presses and Publication Act shows that there is a separate offence for the possession of any prohibited publication “without lawful excuse”, which is punishable upon conviction with a maximum RM5,000 fine.

In the same statement on the newly-gazetted ban, the Home Ministry said it was “committed to prevent the spread of elements that are prejudicial to or may be prejudicial to morality, public interest, and country among society”.

“In this matter, that publication was imposed with the Prohibition Order as it is a publication that is prejudicial or may be prejudicial to morality, public interest, and national interest by promoting, supporting, and normalising the LGBTQ+ movement which is not accepted by the general public in Malaysia,” the ministry said when commenting on the freshly-banned Swatch items.

The Home Ministry also expressed its commitment in preserving security and public order through the supervising and controlling of publications to counter the spread of elements, beliefs and movements that are contrary with “local social-culture” from time to time, in line with the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

On May 13 to 15, 2023, Home Ministry officers raided 16 of Swatch’s stores throughout Malaysia and seized 172 watches worth RM64,795.

According to Swatch Group (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, the 172 Swatch watches that were seized featured nine different designs, with most of them being six designs from its Pride collection launched on May 4, 2023 and which had been advertised on Swatch’s website since that date.

The remaining 29 units featuring three other designs were from the previous years’ Pride collections and had been available for sale in Malaysia since June 2, 2022, or slightly more than 11 months before the Home Ministry’s seizures.

On June 24, the Swatch Group (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd filed the lawsuit via a judicial review application at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.

It named the four respondents as the Home Ministry chief secretary, the Home Ministry’s enforcement division’s secretary, the home minister and the Malaysian government.

In court papers for its lawsuit, Swatch Group said it had not received any complaints from the public about any of the watches that were seized, and argued that these watches did not cause any disruption to public order or morality or any violations of the law since they were sold in Malaysia.

Swatch Group filed the lawsuit as it claimed that the Home Ministry’s officers had acted illegally, irrationally, with procedural impropriety and that their actions were allegedly disproportionate and for an improper purpose.

In its lawsuit, Swatch Group is seeking court orders for compensation; to quash the Home Ministry’s seizure notice for the 172 watches; for the seized watches to be returned within five days of the order.

Swatch Group is also seeking for a court declaration that Section 16(2) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984 only authorises the Home Ministry’s officers to search Swatch’s stores in “exigent circumstances” or urgent circumstances, and an order to quash the decisions and actions of the Home Ministry officers on the searches of Swatch stores and seizures of the watches.

For judicial review applications, applicants must obtain leave of permission from the High Court before the actual lawsuit can proceed for hearing.

The High Court is scheduled to hear Swatch Group’s application for leave for judicial review on August 23.