PETALING JAYA: Political cartoonist Zunar today hailed the government’s decision to revoke the ban on his book, “Sapuman – Man of Steal” which was banned for almost a year.
“I do not see it as a victory solely for myself, but also for other writers, cartoonists and publishers in the country,” he said.
“The court, in ordering compensation for my loss of income due to the book, has sent a signal to the government that they should be responsible and cannot simply ban books or artwork as they like.”
He added that today was supposed to be the court hearing to challenge the book ban.
In a letter signed by the home ministry’s legal adviser Mohammad Al-Saifi Hashim yesterday, the ministry said it was lifting the restriction order against Zunar’s book.
“Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as the acting home minister, has decided to lift the ban made in October 2017,” the letter read.
The ban was removed on Aug 2.
Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee SM Anwarul Haque, filed a court challenge in January against the government for banning “Sapuman: Man of Steal”, a compilation of caricatures poking fun at government leaders, particularly former prime minister Najib Razak.
In his court documents, he claimed the home ministry’s ban last year was made in bad faith and that he was not informed about it.
“Ministry secretary-general Alwi Ibrahim said in a press statement (on Oct 9, 2017) that my books were banned because the cartoons were deemed prejudicial to public order,” he said in his affidavit.
The home ministry said “Sapuman” was banned under Section 7 (1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) as it could alarm public opinion.
Meanwhile, Zunar’s lawyer N Surendran said the High Court registrar would later assess damages sought by Zunar in his judicial review.
“The moment the government lifted the ban, the liability was clearly on them.”
He said Zunar and his lawyers were not aware of the ban being revoked until today, when the senior federal counsel informed the court they had received a letter from the home ministry.
Surendran added that they would seek clarification from the ministry on the status of Zunar’s other books.
“They did not tell us whether the ban was lifted for other books,” he said.