July 21, 2010 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Censored cartoonist Zunar tells his story

On 24 June 2010, the Home Affairs Ministry banned my cartoon books and cartoon magazines, namely “1Funny Malaysia,” “Perak Darul Kartun (Perak the Land of Cartoon)” and “Isu Dalam Kartun (Issues in Cartoon).” 1Funny Malaysia is a collection of my work from 2005 until 2009 that was published in Cartoonkini on a popular web-based news portal, Malaysiakini. Perak Darul Kartun is a book published by my own company, Sepakat Efektif Sdn Bhd. Isu Dalam Kartun is a monthly magazine with a publishing permit from the Home Affairs Ministry. Three issues have been published: vol1, vol2 and vol3. In August of last year, officials from Home Affairs seized 408 copies of the inaugural issues of Gedung Kartun (Cartoon Store) from my office in Kuala Lumpur. The next day, printing plates from the factory were also seized. WHAT IS THE CONTENT? 1 Funny Malaysia, Gedung Kartun, Perak Darul Kartun and Isu Dalam Kartun are focused on the corruption and misconduct of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration. Issues such as the murder of Altantuya, the Scorpene scandal, the conspiracy against Anwar Ibrahim, misuse of public funds and taxpayer money, suppressing the media, the use of draconian laws such as the Internal Security Act, Printing and Publication Act and Official Secrets Act were highlighted in these publications. GOVERNMENT’S STATEMENT According to the statement from the Home Affairs Ministry, all six of my publications, as well as my team of cartoonists, are on the “Prohibited Publication” list. Ministry of Home Affairs secretary-general Mahmood Adam said these books are banned because they are not suitable for reading by the public. "All three publications have been banned for its contents that can influence the people to revolt against the leaders and government policies. The contents are not suitable and detrimental to public order," he said. Offences are punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment or fines of up to RM 20,000 or both for printing, importing, producing, reprinting, publishing, selling, circulating, distributing, offering to sell, possess prohibited material or contents. THE CONTENT Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration is tainted with three big issues; conspiracy against the former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu and the submarine scandal. Anwar’s popularity is a threat to Najib’s political career, thus the administration concocted the infamous sodomy charge in order to send him to jail. And the extraordinary payment made by the government to the French company in the procurement of Scopene submarines is also a widely discussed topic. The deal took place while Najib was defence minister. In relation to that, the murder of Altantuya, who worked as a translator in the deal, using an explosive C4 bomb is also a big issue. Even though Najib denied involvement in the case, the majority of the Malaysian public thinks otherwise. Also, there are other hot issues such as the appointment of a Jewish company as an advisor to the Prime Minister, corruption, cronyism and so on. My banned cartoons highlight these subjects and my intention is to give the correct perspective and information to the reader. It is a duty for any political cartoonist to be a ‘watch-dog’ over the authorities and to represent the voice of the people through art. ZUNAR’s Statement: 1 This ban on the six publications means that all 312 cartoons in the books and magazines by me and my team of cartoonist are being banned as well. 2. All these cartoons are based on current issues, done with facts and research. 3. I call on the Home Affairs Ministry to explain the meaning of "...contents that can influence the people to revolt against the leaders and government policies. The contents are not suitable and detrimental to public order." 4. I also call on the Home Affairs Ministry to identify which of the 312 cartoons they are referring to. 5. If the government does not like my cartoons, they can take me to court. I am responsible for all my cartoons and willing to face the consequences if I break any law. 6. The government’s action is in stark contrast to that of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who took office in April last year and promised to promote openness and transparency. 7. The government’s action is politically motivated and designed to block alternative views and critical voices. 8. The government’s action is a mockery of press freedom and freedom of expression. 9. From the business perspective, this action by the Home Affairs Ministry has caused considerable losses to my company. It is estimated that the losses reach RM50,000 or RM100,000 with the returning of the publications from the vendors. 10. I would like to stress that material gain is not my objective. As a cartoonist, it is my social responsibility to expose corruption, lies and misconduct by the BN government. Zunar