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NEWS UPDATES 25 June 2010

Malaysia bans political cartoons

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The Malaysian government has banned three publications displaying political cartoons that criticize the government, but one of the artists said Friday he was obligated to highlight issues other cartoonists would not.

The government said the cartoons in two books and a magazine posed a security threat.

Malaysia has banned dozens of publications in recent years, but usually because of sexual content or alleged misrepresentation of Islam, its official religion. But the latest ban is certain to spark complaints that the government is disallowing critical views.

"All three publications have been banned for their contents that can influence the people to revolt against the leaders and government policies," a statement issued by Home Ministry Secretary General Mahmood Adam on the official news agency Bernama said. "The contents are not suitable and detrimental to public order," he said without elaborating.

The works are mainly collections of comics by Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, known as Zunar, and other local cartoonists, questioning current events, such as police shootings and the sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

The books, titled "Perak, Land of Cartoons" in Malay and "1 Funny Malaysia," were published late last year. The magazine, "Issues in Cartoons" in Malay, with a circulation of 15,000 copies, was launched in February with three volumes coming out since then, Zunar said.

Independent online news portal Malaysiakini, which publishes "1 Funny Malaysia," said it would file a court case to challenge the ban of its book. Its chief executive officer, Premesh Chandran, said the book was a compilation of cartoons already published on Malaysiakini's website.

"It's peculiar that the book is banned ... as so far there is no evidence of public disturbance stemming from these cartoons," he told The Associated Press.

Cartoonist Zunar, who has published the other two works, told the AP he was still waiting for an official letter from the ministry but vowed not to stop drawing.

"In Malaysia the government is like this. They won't allow alternative views. You can do cartoons, you can do whatever art work you want, but it must be in line with the government (view)," said the 47-year-old, who has been a professional cartoonist for more than 20 years.


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