Supporters of cartoonist Zunar were cheered to hear of a small but significant victory in his ongoing legal battles with the government, ruling political party, judiciary and police force in Malaysia today.
Malaysian govt, bound by court decision today agree to pay RM18k (USD 4000) to Zunar for damaged cartoon work during his arrest in Sept 2010
— Zunar Cartoonist (@zunarkartunis) April 11, 2017
He has won financial compensation for damage to personal property during a police raid on his office. As he explains, of more importance than the sum awarded is the message this decision sends to those in the country who continue to suppress freedom of expression.
The full text reads:
“The government of Malaysia, bound by the court order today has agreed to pay RM18,000 (about USD 4,000) as a compensation for destroying my orginal political cartoon seven years ago. When the police raided my office and arrested me under the Sedition Act on 24th September 2010, they laso confiscated the drawing which depicted PM Najib and his wife Rosmah, along with then newly-published book “Cartoon-O-Phobia”.
In November 2014, upon my suit, the Court of Appeal maintained the decision by the High Court in July 2012 which had instructed the police to return the drawing and the books to me. The original drawing was badly damaged when I received it.
1. The confiscation of cartoon artworks under the criminal law the Sedition Act is a gross violation of cartoonist’s rights and freedom of expression.
2. 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.
3. 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 discribe the character of the Malaysian government.
4. I would also like to remind that there are currently more than 40 of my cartoon works still under police custody in Penang since November 2016, which are also being investigated under the Sedition Act. I will take legal action for the police to return them at they are. The has to be responsible for damages, if any.
5. This goes the same for the 1,300 books which was confiscated by the Kuala Lumpur police, also in November 2016, because according to the police, it is “Detrimental to Parliamentary Democracy.”
Zunar’s damages relate to the incidents that first brought him to CRNI’s attention and earned him our Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award in 2011.
At the end of this week Zunar is due to hear a judge’s decision on his challenge to his on-going travel ban.