Friday, April 10, 2015CJFE condemns the criminal prosecution of Malaysian satirical cartoonist Zulkifi Anwar Ulhaque, known as Zunar, who is facing nine charges of sedition for tweeting critically about a February 2015 court decision. If convicted, Zunar faces 43 years in prison. Following a February 10, 2015, decision by Malaysia’s Federal Court to imprison the country’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for five years on sodomy charges, Zunar tweeted criticism of the verdict and Malaysia’s judiciary. Among the tweets was a cartoon that depicted Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as the judge in the case, implying that the verdict was politicized. Human Rights Watch has condemned the verdict against Anwar Ibrahim as being “politically motivated” and Anwar’s trial was riddled with procedural violations and inconsistencies. According to reports, Zunar was arrested in his home at around 9 p.m. on February 10 and held in custody for three days; sedition charges were levelled on April 3. Zunar has faced persistent persecution from Malaysian authorities dating back to 2010, when he was arrested and charged with sedition hours before the launch of his cartoon book Cartoon-o-phobia. More recently, police raided Zunar’s Kuala Lumpur office on January 29 and seized 150 copies of his books. Malaysia's Sedition Act, established under British colonial rule, restricts any promotion of “hatred” against the government, however the Act’s vague wording allows it to be used for selective prosecution of anyone who speaks out against the regime. These latest sedition charges against Zunar are clearly part of a broader institutionalized pattern of criminalizing freedom of expression in Malaysia. CJFE calls on Malaysian authorities to drop all charges against Zunar and to cease legal harassment of the cartoonist and all other free expression advocates in the country. Further, CJFE urges Prime Minister Najib to make good on his July 2012 promise to repeal the Sedition Act, and urges Malaysian authorities to intervene on behalf of Zunar to have all relative charges of sedition dropped, and his freedom of expression rights restored.
This letter of concern was sent to Her Excellency Hayati Ismail, High Commissioner of Malaysia to Canada. CC: Ms. Judith St. George, High Commissioner of Canada in Kuala Lumpur The Honourable Robert Nicholson, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs