Hundreds of copies of a Malaysian cartoon magazine on current issues edited by prominent cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque (better known as Zunar) have been confiscated by the Malaysian government, according to a report from The Straits Times.
Officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs seized over 400 copies of the inaugural issues of “Gedung Kartun” (Cartoon Store) from the publisher’s office in Kuala Lumpur. Zainal Abidin Othman, the home ministry’s chief enforcement officer in central Selangor state, told The Straits Times that the magazine was confiscated because it has not yet received an official permit under Malaysia’s strict media licensing scheme.
However, editor/cartoonist Zunar claimed that the seizure was politically motivated due to a caricature of Prime Minister Najib Razak on the front cover.
“Our permit was approved two weeks ago. We were told of the decision verbally and given the permit serial number, we are just waiting for the official letter,’ he told AFP.
According to the report, the caricature linked Prime Minister Najib to a 2006 murder of a Mongolian model who was the lover of his former adviser – a case in which Najib has repeatedly denied any involvement or knowledge.
Media watchdogs Centre for Independent Journalism and Writers Alliance for Media Independence condemned the move, saying it showed the government was using licensing laws to “arbitrarily” curb freedom of expression.
“The confiscation smacks of harassment and censorship of discussion of current issues,” the groups said in a joint statement.
Reporters Without Borders ranks Malaysia 132 out of 173 on its global press freedom index, and says the government-linked mainstream media are “often compelled to ignore or to play down the many events organized by the opposition.”