[JURIST] The government of mainly-Muslim Malaysia has imposed a blanket ban on the controversial caricatures of Muhammad [JURIST news archive], making it an offense to publish, import, produce, manufacture, circulate, distribute or even possess the cartoons originally printed in a Danish newspaper in September and since republished in newspapers around the world. The Malaysian ban is believed to be the first specific national prohibition of the cartoons by a government, and the first ban to extend to simple possession. Last week a South African court barred the publication of the cartoons [IRIN report] by newspapers in that country; editors there have said they will appeal. The Malaysian directive was accompanied by an order from Internal Security Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi that the publishing license of the Sarawak Tribune [media website], an English language newspaper that republished the cartoons last week, be suspended indefinitely [Berama report]. Its editor faces three years imprisonment or a RM20,000 fine or both under the terms of Malaysia's Printing Presses & Publication Act. Malaysia currently heads the Organization of the Islamic Conference [official website] and the republication of the cartoons by a Malaysia media outlet is said to have caused the government some embarrassment. Malaysian officials are also reported to be concerned about exacerbating tensions between Malaysia's Muslim and non-Muslim populations. From Malaysia, the New Straits Times has local coverage. On Friday, more than 12,000 Malaysian Muslims marched on the Danish embassy in Kuala Lumpur [Bernama report] to protest the cartoons.
In a related development in neighboring Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, authorities Thursday arrested the editor of the tabloid publication PETA for republishing the cartoons there. A report in the Jakarta Post has suggested that Imam Tri Karso Hadi may be charged under Article 156 of the Criminal Code on Religious Blasphemy, which could lead to up to five years imprisonment. Reuters has more.
10:25 PM ET - Indonesian police have said they have now charged PETA editor Imam Tri Karso Hadi under the blasphemy statute. AFP has more.