Malaysian government ordered to pay for damaged cartoons

One of Zunar's controversial cartoons. Credit: Zunar

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the decision by the High Court in Malaysia against the government to pay compensation to cartoonist Zunar for damaged works. The IFJ calls on the Malaysian government to end its attack on Zunar and drop all the sedition charges.

On Tuesday, April 11, the High Court of Malaysia ordered the Malaysian government and police to pay political cartoonist, Zulkiflee SM Anwar Haque, whose pen name is Zunar, RM18,000 (USD 4,000). The ruling against the government was made due to damages to Zunar’s works which were seized seven years ago in 2009. Zunar has originally sued two police officers, A Arikrisna and Marina Hashim, along with the former inspector general of police Ismail Omar and the government for unlawful detention and false imprisonment, but in 2012, the High Court dismissed the lawsuit, but ruled that seizure and continued possession of the 66 books was unlawful and damages to be assessed.

Following the decision by the High Court, the government has agreed to pay compensation to Zunar for damage to the original cartoons.

Zunar said: “The confiscation of the artworks under the Sedition Act is a gross violation of cartoonist’s rights and freedom of expression. To keep the artwork under the police custody for five years and damaging it is a more serious offence. It is clearly an act of intimidation and lack of respect of the work of art. Today's decision is not about the quantum, but as a lesson to the police and the Malaysian government that using criminal law arbitrarily to confiscate and destroy cartoon works is unacceptable, and was done in bad faith. It is also a clear proof that my book's title, "Cartoon-O-Phobia" is a right word to describe the character of the Malaysian government.”

The IFJ said: “We strongly support the ruling by the High Court of Malaysia to offer compensation to Zunar for damage to his work. The Malaysian government has continued to intimidate Zunar under the Sedition Act for several years now, all in attempt to silence his critical voice. Freedom of expression is a vital component of any democracy, yet the government of Malaysia does little to respect that.”

The IFJ also calls on the Malaysia government to immediately drop the nine charges of sedition against Zunar and guarantee freedom of expression in Malaysia. 

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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