Malaysia upholds bans on books

The Malaysian government has refused to lift a ban on books by a columnist and a political cartoonist, prompting complaints from the Committee for Independent Journalism in Kuala Lumpur over restrictions on freedom of expression, the Asia Sentinel reports.

In the case of columnist Yong Thye Chong, who writes under the pen name Kim Quek, the court said his book is “not suitable for general reading” and contained “elements of baseless accusations and speculations” against the country’s leaders. The author, by the way, is a supporter of the opposition party. But Malaysians don’t have to look far to find the offensive material — it’s all freely available on the Internet.

The court stood by the ban on the work of cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaq, who is known by his pen name Zunar, because of a concern over the cartoons’ impact on public order. Justice Rohaya Yusuf said, “There is therefore a need to restrict fundamental liberties provisions guaranteed under the federal constitution.”

Steven Levingston is the nonfiction editor of The Washington Post. He is author of “Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Époque Paris” (Doubleday, 2014) and “The Kennedy Baby: The Loss that Transformed JFK” (Washington Post eBook, 2013).
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