Art Harun: Publications Act not effective in maintaining social order

PETALING JAYA: Lawyer Azhar Harun has slammed the government over its use of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) to ban books, saying it will not be effective in maintaining social order and morality.

"With all these books that are deemed 'dirty' being banned, we still have cases of fathers raping their daughters 365 times. So, does it work?

"In law, there is a school of thought that says, any law that is unenforceable or impossible to enforce, is a bad law," he said this at the "Books, a source of knowledge, or a threat to harmony" forum on Monday (Oct 30).

Azhar, popularly known as Art Harun, also pointed out that with the advancement of technology, anyone could have access to banned publications in the form of e-books online.

"So, if you ban a book today, they will just go online and get that book. That law is not going to be effective and it's not going to be a good law," he added.

Azhar also said that Section 7 of the PPPA gives publication-banning powers to the Home Minister that are too broadly defined.

"It says here that if the minister is satisfied that any publication contains articles, caricatures, reports or notes that are likely to be prejudicial to public order, morality, security, or to alarm public opinion, he may in his absolute discretion, by the order of the gazette to prohibit the publication," he said.

Azhar stressed that the Government must draw a fine line between a real threat to public order and the perception of a threat to public order.

He said that the incitement of racial tensions in the country should be one of the offences to warrant the banning of a book.

"We cannot simply put everything in one basket and say that it's threatening public order. There must be a substantive offence or crime behind those books," said Azhar.

Meanwhile, author Al-Mustaqeem M Radhi said that the ban on books will only hurt local publishing houses.

"It's going to hurt publishers because local publishers are small. If they print 3,000 books, it will probably take three to four years to sell half of it," he added.

Al-Mustaqeem, whose four books were banned by the Home Ministry in August, said that although readers can access e-books on the internet, printed books still play a very important role in society.

"In fact, I recently read that publishers are going back to traditional printed books due to the demand," he added.

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