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A new book on cartoon censorship around the world was banned yesterday by Singapore’s media regulators for offending religion. 

The Infocomm Media Development Authority, or IMDA, said that the book, Red Lines: Political Cartoons and the Struggle Against Censorship, by award-winning Singaporean cartoonist Sonny Liew and former journalist Cherian George, contained 29 images it deemed problematic, including the Islamic Prophet Muhammad from French publication Charlie Hebdo

“The offensive Charlie Hebdo cartoons first appeared in 2006 and have been widely labelled as irresponsible, reckless and racist. Most major publications had refused to reproduce the cartoons as they were deemed incendiary,” IMDA said in yesterday’s statement, citing the killings in France that resulted from the publication’s cartoon. 

The regulatory body did not list the other 28 images it said were “objectionable” under the Undesirable Publications Act but noted that some had “denigratory references pertaining to Hinduism and Christianity.” 

Under the law, those found guilty of importing, selling, distributing, making or reproducing an objectionable publication face a S$5,000 fine and year in jail. 

The IMDA said it was in touch with Singapore distributor Alkem on the matter. 

The book was published in August in the United States by MIT Press and was mostly meant for an American audience, co-author George said on the book’s website yesterday, but a draft was sent to “a diverse panel of readers around the world as a sensitivity check.” 

George, a professor at the Hong Kong Baptist University, also added that there might be a redacted version of the book for Singapore readers.  

“Although we have had no direct communications with IMDA officials, we understood from our distributor that they expressed gratitude for our cooperation, and appreciated the academic purpose of the book,” he said. “IMDA recognized that the book republishes examples of controversial cartoons to illuminate ongoing debates and not to offend.”

The book questions the legitimacy of censorship while also arguing the need for it, particularly against hate speech, he noted. 

Liew won three Eisner awards in 2017 for The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye.

Other stories:

Drawing the line on political cartooning in Singapore

Singapore rapper charged with attempting to stoke racial enmity

This article, Singapore bans political cartoon book for images that ‘denigrate’ religion, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia’s leading alternative media company.

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