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Decision against Zunar disappointing

July 14, 2011

FMT LETTER: From Chuah Siew Eng, CIJ, via e-mail

We are naturally disappointed with the High Court’s dismissal of political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque (Zunar) and columnist Yong Thye Chong’s (Kim Quek) applications for a judicial review of the banning of their books under Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), 1984.

The two cases illustrate yet again how the vagueness of the PPPA, especially in defining problematic phrases and terms, such as “prejudicial to public order”, as well as the overbroad powers the law grants the Home Minister, continue to pose a formidable challenge to freedom of expression in Malaysia.

This is compounded by court judgements that do not hold the executive to stringent standards when it comes to restrictions on this fundamental liberty.

It is also unfortunate that the judge for these two cases chose to consider them jointly. Although both have similar grounds of challenge, they involve different mediums that must surely require different interpretations and assessments in terms of the so-called harm caused.

Zunar and Kim Quek are but conscientious socio-political commentators who respond to the many cases of injustice using a medium of expression of their choice – Zunar, through cartoons and Kim Quek, with words.

We will, of course, wait for the details of the written judgment. We are particularly interested in how the judge found the restriction proportionate to the ‘offence’, as well as the legality of the seizure of Kim Quek’s book.

Though the odds are not in their favour, we are nevertheless heartened that the authors and lawyers have said they will be appealing the dismissal. The PPPA must continue to be challenged and these two cases have shown yet again the crucial need for media law reform.

Chuah Siew Eng is Centre for Independent Journalism’s programme officer.

Also read:

Mahkamah tolak rayuan Zunar, MalaysiaKini, Kim Quek


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