Ahead of Zunar's trial, NGOs call on Malaysian government to drop charges

Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Photo courtesy of Zunar's Facebook page.
CJFE joins IFEX members in condemning the Malaysian government’s crackdown 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'. Following tweets and a cartoon he published in February 2015, Zunar is currently facing 43 years in prison if found guilty of nine counts of sedition. 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). International Federation of Journalists Afghanistan Journalists Center Albanian Media Institute ARTICLE 19 Association of Caribbean Media Workers Association of Independent Electronic Media Bahrain Center for Human Rights Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism Bytes for All Cambodian Center for Human Rights Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Cartoonists Rights Network International Center for Independent Journalism - Romania Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility Centre for Independent Journalism - Malaysia Committee to Protect Journalists Electronic Frontier Foundation Foro de Periodismo Argentino Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP Fundamedios - Andean Foundation for Media Observation and Study Globe International Center Independent Journalism Center - Moldova Initiative for Freedom of Expression - Turkey Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information Institute of Mass Information International Press Institute Journaliste en danger Maharat Foundation Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance Media Institute of Southern Africa Media Rights Agenda Metamorphosis, Foundation for Internet and Society National Union of Somali Journalists Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión - OLA Pakistan Press Foundation Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms - MADA PEN American Center PEN Canada World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - AMARC World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers World Press Freedom Committee
This letter of concern was sent to Her Excellency Dato’ Hayati Ismail, High Commissioner of Malaysia to Canada. Cc: Ms. Judith St. George, High Commissioner of Canada in Kuala Lumpur The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

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