Famed Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Unlhaque, better known as Zunar, was arrested today under Malaysia’s Sedition Act, for cartoons that allegedly offended Prime Minister Najib Razak.
He is being taken to court tomorrow, 27 November, for a remand hearing.
Zunar’s arrest today under the Sedition Act and Penal Code came after he displayed his artwork for public viewing. For Zunar, it is the latest in a series of assaults on his right to freedom of expression, which have included previous arrests under the Sedition Act and a travel ban.
In 2012, Prime Minister Najib Razak had promised to abolish the Sedition Act, but he reneged on that commitment, and the law has been amended to introduce even harsher punishments.
The law, held over from Malaysia’s time as a British colony, criminalizes any conduct with a “serious tendency” to bring “hatred or contempt” against the head of state.
Zunar’s previous arrests were met with criticism across the globe from human rights organizations exposing Malaysia’s attempt to fight free expression with the force of its government, consistently ranked among the world’s worst for free speech.
“Zunar’s arrest comes as Maria Chin Abdullah, the chair of the Bersih movement, unjustifiably remains in solitary confinement. She was arrested under repressive national security laws on 18 November, a day before thousands of activists took to the streets to peacefully demand electoral reforms and an end to corruption. Maria Chin Abdullah and all other prisoners of conscience should be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Amnesty International calls on the Malaysian authorities to repeal the colonial-era sedition laws and release all prisoners of conscience held under them, dropping all charges and expunging any convictions.
Maria Chin Abdullah, the chair of the Bersih movement, was also arrested on 18 November, a day before thousands of Malaysians took to the streets to peacefully demand electoral reforms and accountability for corruption.
She is being held in solitary confinement after being charged under Malaysia’s Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or Sosma.
The Sedition Act and Sosma are repressive laws that have been increasingly favoured by Malaysian authorities as tools to silence and punish dissenting voices.