Cartoonists Rights Network International calls for the immediate release of jailed cartoonists Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, aka Zunar.
The government of Prime Minister Najib Razak promised in 2012 to resend the much criticized Sedition Act which was originally implemented in 1948 as a way for the colonial masters to keep criticism at a minimum. Since then, any movement towards rescinding the much hated and legally challenged sedition act has not been forthcoming.
When reached for a comment, CRNI Executive Director Robert Russell said: “The government of Najib Razak is recognized as one of the free speech pariahs the South Asian region.”
- The free-speech advocacy group Article 19, whose executive director Thomas Hughes in a press release stated, “The arrest is clearly an attack on freedom of expression in the country and an attempt to silence legitimate criticism of the government online as well as offline.”
- The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, which posted, “The systematic repression of Zunar and his work has been ongoing for years. … This unjustified and irresponsible response to Zunar and his wife’s freedom of expression is especially odious given the recent mass murder of the editors and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo. The AAEC calls upon the Malayasian government to release Zunar and cease their efforts against his wife, and to respect the rights of citizens to dissent peacefully.”
- The Association of Canadian Editorial Cartoonists/L’Association Canaidenne des Dessinateurs Éditoriaux has petitioned for a representative from Kuala Lumpur’s Canadian consulate be present at the scheduled launch of Zunar’s book “ROS in Kangkong Land” on Saturday, February 14th, stating: “Our fear in the international cartoon community is that Zunar may be released from jail on his ‘sedition ‘ charge only to be rearrested at his book launch by the police. More international witnesses will aid in preventing this . . . As our representatives in Malaysia, aid us in assisting this gentleman in a dire situation.”
- Malaysian human rights advocacy group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) posted :“It is unimaginable that peaceful expressions by cartoonist Zunar, MP Nga Kor Ming, MP Rafizi Ramli, PKR Reformation Movement Jingga 13’s head Fariz Musa and Parti Sosialis Malay (PSM) Secretary-General S. Arutchelvan are treated as criminal offences by the government. We further decry the government’s decision in arresting and remanding Zunar given that his alleged seditious comment caused no harm to either national security or public order.”
UPDATE: Zunar was released from the Dang Wangi police lockup at 10:40 AM, February 13, according to supporters and assistant police commissioner Zainol Samah. Zunar’s lawyer reportedly indicated that “the police were in the midst of wrapping up his [Zunar’s] case and would soon hand in the investigation paper to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.”
UPDATE: On February 14, Malaysian police reportedly waylaid the truck transporting Zunar’s latest book to the book launch in Petaling Jaya and confiscated all 200 copies. Zunar responded to the news by taking online orders for the book, “ROS in Kangkongland.”