The Malaysian government is cracking down on freedom of expression via the expansion and increased use of the Sedition Act (1948). In the past two years, the escalated use of the pre-colonial Act has seen government officials, opposition politicians and the media harassed and often prosecuted.
Among those charged for sedition is Malaysian political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, known under the ink name ‘Zunar’.
Zunar was arrested on 10 February this year for tweets allegedly attacking the judiciary over the trial of opposition leader and former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim.
“The lackeys in black robes are proud of their sentence. The rewards from the political masters must be plenty,” Zunar wrote in one of his tweets.
In recent years, the satirist and his associates have been constantly investigated and harassed by police. Between 2009 and 2010, the Home Minister for Malaysia banned five of Zunar’s books claiming they were detrimental to public order. In September of 2010, Zunar was arrested and detained for publishing a new book called Cartoon-O-Phobia.
In November of 2014, those connected to the sale of Zunar’s cartoon books were arrested and questioned under the sedition laws. Further, the online payment gateway that manages the financial transactions of his website was forced to release the details of people who purchased his books.
Zunar is currently out on bail but his case is due in court in Malaysia on 20 May 2015.
We the undersigned members and partners of IFEX – the global network defending freedom of expression – are seriously concerned by the escalating use and increased power of the Sedition Act (1948) in Malaysia over the past 12 months, including the nine counts of sedition against Zulkiflee ‘Zunar’Anwar Haque.
We call on the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Haji Mohammad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak to withdraw all charges against Zunar and all other persons charged with sedition, and to make a public statement reaffirming the pledge he made in his 2012 election campaign to abolish the Sedition Act (1948).