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The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI) are concerned about the confiscation of hundreds of copies of a cartoon magazines on current issues edited by prominent cartoonist, Zunar. The confiscation smacks of harassment and censorship of discussion of current issues.

On 25 August, officials from the Control of Publication Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs seized copies of the inaugural issues of Gedung Kartun (Cartoon Store) from the publisher's office in
Kuala Lumpur. According to the magazine Chief Editor Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, better known as Zunar, more than 400 copies were seized. When contacted by CIJ, the Department's Assistant Secretary Abdul Razak Abdul Latif said the magazine was confiscated "primarily" due to the lack of a publication permit as well as for content "checking". He was unable to confirm the amount seized.

However, Zunar disputed the lack of permit as the reason and claimed that he had obtained the permit's serial number verbally. He said the officers insisted on confiscating the magazines despite informing them of the verbal permission. Zunar said he was then told to ask for an official letter regarding the status of the permit.

The permit requirement for publications is legislated under the Printing Presses a
nd Publications Act 1984, and failing to meet the requirement can result in imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of up to RM20 000 (USD5700).

The confiscation is a form of harassment against those who publish alternative interpretations of current events. Zunar is a long time contributor to online news site Malaysiakini and is well-known for his political cartoons.

Gedung Kartun, a bi-weekly slated for the market in September, features drawings that discuss the controversial death of the political assistant from opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) at the Selangor Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office as well as one involving the Prime Minister Najib Razak. Zunar said the magazine is about alternative humour.

The action once again shows how the licensing regime is used arbitrarily to control exp
ression. The employment of such law does not inspire confidence with the Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussien's announcement that the law will be reviewed to keep up with the demands of the people. To show that the Minister appreciates the people's criticism of the law, he should stop any further practices of harsh measures such as the arbitrary confiscation of publications.

CIJ and WAMI urge the Ministry to return copies of Gedung Kartun to its publisher so that it can be made available to the public. We also urge the Ministry to reveal what it's plan is for the supposed review of the PPPA and to include civil society in its consultations.

Issued by: Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Executive Director, CIJ and Wong Chin Huat, Chairman, WAMI. For more information please contact Wai Fong at 03-4023 0772