Court orders lift of ban on cartoonist Zunar's two books

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal today ordered the ban on two cartoon books by cartoonist "Zunar" to be lifted and all the copies seized by the Home Ministry in 2010 to be returned to him.

A three-man bench headed by justice Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof, in a unanimous decision, ruled that there was no plausible evidence of the books being a treat to public order.

The other two panel members are Datuk Varghese Goerge Varughese and Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat.

Mohamad Ariff said press cuttings tendered in the affidavits to support the ministry's action fell far short of the requisite proof.

In his written judgment, he said political cartoonist, unlike serious political writers, sought to ridicule persons and institutions with humour to deliver a message.

"It will be most exceptional if a political cartoon will have the effect of disturbing public order, security or the safety of a nation.

"These cartoons are admittedly rude, contemptuous and defamatory, as conceded by counsel, where it will be opened to persons and institutions affected to sue the appellants under the applicable law if the complaints are borne out," he added.

Justice Varughese, in his supporting judgment, said the minister's decision in banning the books on the ground that they were prejudicial to public order was unsupported.

"The minister had acted unreasonably and irrationally in issuing the blanket ban order and the High Court should have granted certiorari order sought by the applicant and quashed the minister's order on May 25, 2010," he added.

MKINI Dotcom Sdn Bhd, which operates the Malaysiakini news portal, and publisher Sepakat Efektif Sdn Bhd, on behalf of Zulkiflee SM Anwarul Haque, a political cartoonist operating under the pen name "Zunar", had filed two separate applications to challenge the banning of two books, entitled 1 Funny Malaysia and Perak Darul Kartun.

On July 14, 2011, the High Court had dismissed a judicial review application by the appellants to challenge the ban and seizure of 33 copies of the books.

During today's proceeding, the Zunar was represented by counsel Edmund Bon Tai Soon and Aston Paiva, while senior federal counsel Noor Hisham Ismail represented the Home Minister. – Bernama