THE Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is concerned by the government’s latest move of confiscating two books, Where is Justice? and 1Funny Malaysia, published by online news site Malaysiakini.com.
On 29 Jan, the news portal reported that 64 copies of the books had been confiscated from two retail outlets in Malacca and Penang. A Malaysiakini spokesperson said the police and the Home Ministry told the publisher that they are studying the books for content that is “prejudicial to public order and morality”. He also said that the retailers could not sell the books until the ministry had reached a decision.
The confiscation of books in order to study their content is a questionable procedure. Book banning is a severe violation of freedom of expression, and to confiscate books on the mere concern that they might be offensive takes this violation to extremes.
The ministry’s excuse for scrutinising the content of the books is also questionable. The books discuss current crises of governance: Where is Justice? questions the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission for cases of death in custody, while 1Funny Malaysia is a collection of political cartoons by Zunar, a Malaysiakini contributor.
Zunar‘s comic magazines on current affairs were also confiscated by the ministry in August 2009 for purportedly not having a publication permit.
The Home Ministry was further reported to have extended the gag order on the circulation of Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times for further 60 days for similar study. Written by Asian Wall Street Journal former editor Barry Wain, the book contends that the fourth prime minister was responsible for losses of RM100 billion during his terms in office.
The books were confiscated on 24 Dec last year from the Port Klang checkpoint.
These incidents show that public discussion and criticism of the federal government are consistently restricted. The government is violating the people’s right to free speech and opinion, instead of improving its services to counter the critics.
We call on the ministry to immediately return the confiscated books and allow them to be distributed at all outlets.
Centre for Independent Journalism
2 Feb 2010