Just after our Merdeka celebrations, it’s back to reality. Cartoonist Zunar, who could be jailed for up to three years if he is convicted under the Printing Presses and Publications Act, feels he has been unfairly treated. “If drawing cartoons results in three years imprisonment, imagine the state of media freedom and freedom of expression in Malaysia,” he laments.
Referring to the news article in Malaysian dated 29 August 2009 which quotes the Home Minstry’s Corporate Communication Unit’s Head, Jamilah Taib that Sepakat Efektif Sdn Bhd, a company that I own will be charged for publishing material without a publishing license. According to Jamilah, Sepakat Efektif will be charged under Section 5(2) (b) of the Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984 for distribution unlicensed publications. If convicted, the penalties are not more than three years prison or a fine not exceeding RM20,000 or both. The statement by Jamilah refers to the publication of a cartoon magazine titled ‘Gedung Kartun’.
For the record, before the publication of the magazine, I made an application to the Home Ministry to the Home Minstry for the Publication Permit and all requirements and conditions to obtain the permit had been fulfilled.
On 3 August, our Company had contacted Officers from the Home Ministry and we were informed that the permit had been approved and the hard copy of the Publication Permit would be ready for collection on 14 August 2009. On the said date we went to collect the Publication Permit at the Home Ministry but were informed that the Permit was not ready. I then requested for the Permit number so that we could begin with production work on the understanding that when the magazine would be printed and distributed in 10 days time, the Permit would be ready.
We were given the Permit Number PP8541/08/2010(0282145) ISSN 1688-5398 by the officers on that day.
I refute any allegations that Gedung Kartun is published with a false permit. The Home Ministry has made a serious accusation that implies that I made up the Permit Number PP8541/08/2010(0282145) ISSN1688-5398.
I am bemused as to why the Publication Permit for Gedung Kartun is yet to be issued and instead a raid was conducted and they now want to charge me in court. Isn’t it better for them to issue the approved permit as they informed to me and solve all matters?
As the approved Publication Permit can only be signed off by the Home Minister, I shall request in writing to meet with the Home Minister Dato’ Seri Hishamuddin Tun Hussein to get an explanation on whether he did or not approve the permit number PP8541/08/2010(0282145) ISSN 1688-5398 on or before 14 August 2009 for Gedung Kartun magazine as informed by Officers of the Home Ministry.
I will also like to question the increasing difficulty in obtaining Publication Permits. What then is meant by the Prime Minister that the media will be freer under his Administration? Is it that under 1Malaysia, works of art and the voices of cartoonists will be under a tighter grip?
If drawing cartoons results in three years imprisonment, imagine the state of media freedom and freedom of expression in Malaysia.
I also urge for the draconian Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984 to be abolished.
(Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque)
Political cartoonist, Gedung Kartun Editor
1 September 2009
–Defend the rights of cartoonists