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CIJ welcomes court decision to overturn book ban

(CIJ/IFEX) - The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) welcomes a court decision to quash a ban on a book published by Sisters in Islam (SIS). The ruling has set an important precedent that limits the previously unchecked power of the Minister of Home Affairs under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA).

On 25 January 2010, Justice Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof ruled that the state's restriction of fundamental liberties must take into account the proportionality of the restriction. In this case, where less than five percent of the text was being disputed, he argued that the ban was disproportionate. He also agreed with SIS's concern for procedural propriety, as the government did not inform SIS about the ban. Instead, the organisation learned about the ban through the media, and later confirmed it with the ministry.

The ministry had argued that the book, entitled "Muslim Women and the Challenge of Islamic Extremism", was prejudicial to public order, even though the book had been in circulation for two years before the ban. The judge ruled against this argument.

Though CIJ is pleased that the ruling defines a boundary around the absolute power sanctioned under the PPPA, the law itself is still an effective instrument to curb the free flow of expression and information. The burden is still on the affected individual(s) to challenge the ministry, and the sheer effort of doing so could be discouraging. The ruling in favour of SIS was only possible after 18 months of marshalling institutional support and resources.

CIJ calls for the repeal of the PPPA as the first step in upholding Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech.

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