As widely reported following an update on his Twitter feed, CRNI’s 2011 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award winner Zulkiflee Anwar Haque – Zunar – was prevented from leaving Malaysia via Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday October 17th. He had intended to travel to Singapore to attend a forum.
Zunar went on to state that an immigration officer informed him of a travel ban, apparently in place since the 24th of June and instructed by the Royal Malaysian Police’s Inspector-General, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.
As readers of our site will know, Zunar is contesting charges of sedition by the Malaysian government. He has endured more than a decade of harassment from officials with his office raided by the police on multiple occasions, his publications confiscated and website disrupted. This amounts to a war of attrition against him as time, resources and energy are consumed by a long and convoluted court case at one end and his livelihood is curtailed at the other.
The travel ban comes after Zunar, along with Gado of Kenya, received the Cartooning For Peace award last May and his exhibition in Geneva was described as an act of “economic sabotage” by the Malaysian Minister for Communications and possible grounds for police action by the Deputy Prime Minister.
Free Malaysia Today reports that Zunar will contest the ban, saying: “I will file a suit to challenge the travel ban as [the Inspector-General] has no right to stop me from leaving the country. Only the court does.” The Malaysian Mail is carrying a response from IGP Khalid as well as Lawyers for Liberty whose spokesperson quotes the Malaysian constitution, saying “The travel ban on Zunar is a serious infringement on his civil liberties under Article 5, right to life and Article 8, equality.”
Zunar is a well respected and internationally acclaimed cartoonist frequently invited to attend festivals, symposia and conferences around the world. His freedom of movement is not only essential to his artistic and journalistic practice but also a fundamental human right. This latest episode marks a new low in the disgraceful treatment meted out to Zunar by the government and police in Malaysia.
“We were worried about this for some time. The authorities must lift this illegal infringement upon Zunar’s rights.” – CRNI Executive Director Dr Robert Russell
Zunar’s written statement on the incident reads as follows:
Today (17 Oct 2016 at 2pm), inbound to Singapore for a forum, I was stopped by the immigration officer at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
I was told by the officer that the instruction came from the police for them to stop me from traveling. Upon checking further, another immigration officer who wanted to remain anonymous had confirmed that the instruction came directly from the Inspector General Of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar himself, taking effect on 24th June 2016.
The IGP and The Director of Immigration have no right to stop or control my movement and barring me from leaving the country. Only the court does, and even then can only be carried out under specific laws.
Even though I am facing nine charges under the Sedition Act, I am still not convicted since my case shall only start on the 22nd of November this year. This clearly shows gross abuse of power and blatant violation of human rights by these individuals.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the Article 12 clearly states that everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own. The declaration outlines further that the above-mentioned rights shall not be subjected to any restrictions, except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order, public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Covenant.
This is yet another form of long list harassment to stop me from drawing cartoons to criticize the government of Malaysia.
Last year the government slapped me with nine charges under Sedition Act with possibility of 43 years jail punishment if found guilty over the comments in my tweet. Before that, I was locked behind bars twice – first was on 24th September 2010 for two days and then on 10th of February 2015 for three days. Five of my cartoon books are banned and my office in Kuala Lumpur was raided a few times with thousands of my cartoon books confiscated.
The printers and bookstores around the country which carry my cartoon works have also been raided and warned not to print or sell my books in the future or their whole business licence will be revoked.. October 2014, three of my assistants were arrested for selling my cartoon books. The webmaster, who managed his website and online bookstore, was called in by the police for interrogating
I will file a legal challenge to remove the ban. Talent is not a gift, talent is a responsibility.
They can ban my books, they can ban my cartoon, they can ban me from traveling, but they cannot ban my mind, I will keep drawing until the last drop of my ink.
17 Oct 2016