Saturday, February 13, 2010

Stop Harassing Bookstores!

Dear Malaysian Home Ministry, the message is a simple one (and it's not the first time I have blogged this ) :
If you say that you want to get your hands on a copy OF a title to study it :
If you decide to get it from a bookseller :
If a book is not banned and you seize it, you are acting in a bullying, brutish manner and possibly illegally.

News today in The Star that seven bookshops have had copies of the Malaysiakini books 1Funny Malaysia and Where is Justice confiscated/nabbed/grabbed/seized. 57 copies of the books taken in all :
“The books are not banned but they want to seize the books for review purposes,” said Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan.

He said ministry officials could get the books from Kinibooks and need not disturb the bookstores.

He added that Malaysiakini had asked its lawyers to send a letter to the Home Ministry asking for reason for the seizure of the books and demand for their return.

“If they want to ban the books, they should just ban it and we will contest the decision in court,” he said.

1Funny Malaysia by Malaysiakini cartoonist Zulkiflee Anuar is the second of the cartoonist’s books to be seized.

His cartoon magazine Gedung Kartun (Cartoon Store) was seized in August last year.
“My work touches on current issues and is designed to arouse critical thinking and encourage healthy debates.

“The Home Ministry and police actions certainly do not encourage the development of the political cartoon industry in Malaysia. It is also a total violation of press freedom, freedom of expression and the principles of democracy,” he said.

Nathaniel Tan, editor of Where is Justice said he does not understand why the Home Ministry was taking so long to review the book as the text was not long.

“The facts used in the books were checked by our lawyers before publishing to ensure we are not breaking any laws,” he added.
This is a pattern of unacceptable behaviour that needs to stop. But then the authorities are clearly not listening.

Postscript (18/2)  :

Amir Muhammad and I got quoted in a piece in The Malay Mail today.  And we discover that lo and behold, the ministry have not, in fact, "confiscated" the copies "for review purposes", but because, according to the ministry's deputy secretary-general Datuk Ahmad Fuad Ab Azizthey  :
... enforcement officers found the titles to be 'offensive' and violated the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.
What happens next - whether the books will be banned officially or not - remains to be seen. Meanwhile all we can do is protest against the stiffling of freedom of the press in Malaysia and the heavy-handed tactics of enforcement officers in removing books from shops.


Crankster said...

If there is no warrant to seize the books, then it is not possibly illegal, it is definitely illegal.

The whole purpose of harrassing these bookstores is to teach them a lesson for stocking books friendly to the Opposition parties.

If these raid happen on a regular basis, you can be sure these bookstores will eventually decide it's not worth the hassle.

bibliobibuli said...

yes, exactly Crankster. there is a subtext to all this.

Amir Muhammad said...

It would also be good if bookstores (rather then publishers) speak out. But remember the case of MPH which withdrew all Salman Rushdie books based on one measly letter?

Lee Ee Leen said...

thugs are trying to tell us what to read.

ayobkelubi said...

that is one lame excuse from the ministry!.

Johnny B. Rempit said...

Buy them while they're hot, folks.