Cartoonist Zunar wins RM18,000 in damages over book seizure

Cartoonist Zunar - EPA

KUALA LUMPUR: Political cartoonist Zunar (pic) won RM18,000 in damages for his claim against the Government and four others over the seizure of 66 copies of his book "Cartoon-O-Phobia" and a cartoon artwork in 2010.

Speaking to reporters after the proceedings in chambers on Tuesday, Federal counsel Safiyyah Omar confirmed that High Court deputy registrar K.Pavani recorded the consent judgment between the parties during the assessment of damages.

When met by media later, Zunar said it is not about the quantum of damages but a lesson to the police and the Government that using criminal law to confiscate cartoon books and artwork and hold on to them for five years was unacceptable.

"The confiscation of cartoon artworks and books under laws such as the Sedition Act is a gross violation of a cartoonist's rights to freedom of expression," he said.

Zunar added that more than 40 of his cartoons are still being held by the police in Penang and another 1,300 copies of his books were confiscated by the police here in November 2016.

Zunar's lawyer Latheefa Koya said the police only returned 66 books to Zunar in 2015 after the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court order in 2013.

Justice Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera - who was then a High Court Judicial Commissioner - held on July 31, 2012 that the continued confiscation of the books and the collage for an almost two-year period without any further action by the police is unwarranted and unlawful.

In a suit filed in 2011, Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee SM Anwar Ulhaque, claimed that he had suffered damages and losses due to the seizure of the items by the police.

Justice Vazeer ordered that 66 books titled Cartoon-O-Phobia and a collage seized on Sept 24, 2010, be returned to the plaintiffs.

In his lawsuit, Zunar said a police team - led by one Asst Supt Arikrishna Apparau - raided his office in Brickfields at 4pm on Sept 24, 2010, and seized all his books, which he was preparing to launch in a widely-publicised event.

Zunar named the book’s distributor Sepakat Efektif Sdn Bhd as the co-plaintiff in his suit.

The cartoonist named the Government, Home Ministry, ASP Arikrishna, former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar and Asst Supt Marina Hashim, who led a team to seize the books from publisher, on Sept 25, 2010, as defendants.

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