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Cartoonist Zunar goes to court to challenge ban on his books

(RSF/IFEX) - Political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anawar Ulhaque, better known by the pen-name of Zunar, has brought a legal action challenging a government ban on two of his cartoon books, "Funny Malaysia" and "Perak Darul Kartun." A Kuala Lumpur court is due to hear the case on 8 November 2010.

Reporters Without Borders hopes the Malaysian judicial system is able to act independently and that it will order the government to lift the ban. A ruling in Zunar's favour would send a strong signal that there is an urgent need to overhaul the Printing and Publication Act, under which the authorities can ban a book and arrest the author or publisher.

Zunar answered questions from Reporters Without Borders in this exclusive interview:

In a separate case, Zunar is facing a possible three-year jail sentence in a prosecution brought against him by the government for publishing another collection of cartoons called "Cartoon-o-phobia."

Reporters Without Borders urges the government to drop the prosecution and restore all the copies of "Cartoon-o-phobia" that were seized when Zunar was arrested and held overnight in September.

Zunar described his career as a cartoonist to Reporters Without Borders: "I did not do any art or drawing course. I studied science and worked as a technician in a public hospital from 1983 to 1986. At the same time, I began sending my cartoons to the magazine 'Gila-Gila' and then, in 1993 to 'New Straits Times'. But this newspaper often censored my cartoons.

"What started me off doing political cartoons was the Anwar Ibrahim case. I told myself I had to take a stand. In 1999, I joined the Islamic opposition newspaper 'Harakah', where my work was appreciated. That is how I began making a name for myself. Subsequently, in 2002, I joined 'Malaysiakini' and I am still there.

"I have always liked political books, which is very different from practising politics. I don't belong to any party. In my view, a political cartoonist must be well informed, he must know about legal matters, human rights and so on. I hope that, through my cartoons, people understand what is going on. I would like to be a pioneer and for other young cartoonists to take this road. I have already worked with several of them."

Malaysia was ranked 141st out of 178 countries in the 2010 world press freedom index which Reporters Without Borders released on 20 October.

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