Book by Sonny Liew, Cherian George blocked by IMDA

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Red lines: political cartoons and the fight against censorship by Cherian George and Sonny Liew. (PHOTO: Red Lines website)

SINGAPORE – A book on political cartoons and censorship by academic Cherian George and award-winning cartoonist Sonny Liew has been blocked by authorities in Singapore for release in the local market.

In a statement, Dr George said on Monday November 1 that the distributor of “Red Lines: Political Cartoons and the Struggle Against Censorship” approached the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in August for consultations ahead of a planned Singapore release. . . This given that the regulations in Singapore differ from those in the United States where the book is published.

Dr George said the authors discussed various technical ways of writing with distributor Alkem.

Thanks to Alkem, the authors understand that IMDA was grateful for the cooperation and appreciated the academic purpose of the book. “IMDA acknowledged that the book republished examples of controversial cartoons to inform the ongoing debates and not to offend,” said Dr George.

The book covers potentially inflammatory cartoons while his draft was sent to a diverse panel of readers around the world for sensitivity check, said the scholar at the School of Communication and Film at Hong Kong Baptist University. .

Noting the IMDA’s “additional caveat”, Dr George said: “We will need more time to determine if and how we can offer Singapore readers a written version of Red Lines that fully and accurately communicates the substance of the book, while addressing the concerns of the regulator regarding the presentation of works that he considers “reprehensible”.

Liew also shared Dr George’s statement on his Facebook page.

The cartoonist rose to prominence in 2015 after the National Arts Council (NAC) withdrew its $ 8,000 grant for his book “The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” just before its launch. Explaining the reason for the pullout, an NAC spokesperson said the book “potentially undermines the authority” of the Singapore government. The book won three Eisner Awards – the Oscars of the comic book world.

In a separate statement on Monday, IMDA said the book was objectionable under the Unwanted Publications Act (UPA).

“This is because the publication contains offensive images that denigrate religions, including reproductions of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that have led to protests and violence abroad. The publication also contained other disparaging references relating to Hinduism and Christianity, ”IMDA said.

IMDA, in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and the Ministry of the Interior, identified 29 objectionable images under the UPA and engaged Alkem about it.

Over the past five years, IMDA has classified six other publications as objectionable for denigrating various religious communities.

Under the UPA, a person convicted of importing, selling, distributing, making or reproducing a objectionable publication faces a fine of up to $ 5,000 and / or imprisonment. maximum of 12 months.

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