Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, on a speaking tour in England, got word in the early hours of Wednesday, January 28, that his office in Kuala Lumpur was being raided by police. The police questioned Zunar’s staff and confiscated 155 copies of two of the cartoonist’s books — Pirates of the Carry Bn and Conspiracy to Imprison Anwar.
Zunar, whose given name is Zukiflee Anwar Haque, tweeted that the police action was made under the Printing Presses and Publication Act and the Sedition Act. The Malaysian government has been weighing charges against Zunar under the Acts since November, 2014 — this despite a unanimous Court of Appeal decision a month earlier that the government had “acted unreasonably and irrationally” in banning and confiscating Zunar’s books in 2010.
Reacting to the police action, Zunar told The Malaysian Digest: “This is really a government of the cartoon, for the cartoon and by the cartoon . . . The government condemned Charlie Hebdo’s attackers but now they are ‘attacking’ me.”
In a letter protesting the police raid and continued government harassment of Zunar, Cartoonists Rights Network Executive Director Dr. Robert Russell wrote Prime Minister Mohd Najib Razak of Malaysia:
“We have been monitoring the free speech rights of Malaysian cartoonist Zukiflee Anwar Haque, aka ‘Zunar’ for over three years now.
“Zunar is an internationally awarded and universally recognized leader in the political cartooning world. Tens of thousands of journalists and human rights workers and loyal fans follow his cartoons and more often than not, the efforts of your government to suppress his free-speech rights. Typically, he is being charged with crimes before his cartoon books are even released to the public. They are confiscated by the police thru preemptive actions. Newspapers and journals have been warned off from publishing any of his individual cartoons.
“CRNI strongly objects to this illegal treatment of an important Son of Malaysia. He should be rather hailed by your government as an example of Malaysia’s best and brightest.
“We respectfully call upon you to use your good offices to assure Zunar of the rights bestowed upon him by the Malaysian Constitution in the exercise of his free speech. Currently, his treatment at the hands of the police puts the government of Malaysia in direct breach of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which the Malaysian government is a signatory. Article 19 guarantees the citizens of every signatory country the right to free expression without fear of recrimination or intimidating legal actions.”
Zunar was awarded the Cartoonists Rights Network’s Courage in Cartooning award in 2011.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, Asia Division, writes: “It’s shocking and outrageous that the Malaysia government crackdown on freedom of expression has now resulted in an office raid of the prominent cartoonist Zunar and seizure of his books. There is absolutely no justification for this act of censorship by police raid, and Zunar’s books should be returned to him and any consideration of charges against him immediately dropped.”
“Malaysia’s sedition act inspired onslaught raises fundamental questions about whether the government is seeking to cement its power through police action to silence those who voice disagreements with the powers that be. All those inside and outside of Malaysia who care about respect for human rights and democracy in Malaysia need to stand up now and demand the government stop these wrecking ball tactics on activists and members of the political opposition.”
“Human Rights Watch proudly gave a Hellman Hammett award for defenders of free expression to Zunar in 2011, and we will continue to stand by him as he fights for his rights.”
What You Can Do
Email and write in support of Zunar’s right to cartoon and his right of free speech to Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Home Minister and Inspector of General Police (contact info below).
Prime Minister Mohd Najib Razak
Pejabat Perdana Menteri Bangunan Perdana Putra Pusat Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan 62502 Putrajaya,
Tel: +603-88888010 / 03-88888000
Fax: +603-88887711 / 03-88880142
Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
Kementerian Dalam Negeri, Aras 12, Blok D1, Kompleks D, Pusat Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan 62502
Inspector of General Police Khalid Abu Bakar
Ibu Pejabat Polis Diraja Malaysia
50560 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +603 – 2266 2222
Faks: +603 – 2070 7500
CRNI suggests that all letter writers follow Amnesty International’s tips for effective letters. Letters should be brief; respectful and reasonable in tone; and instructive as to the positive opportunities to be gained from a change in government actions.