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Ahead of cartoonist's trial, NGOs call on Malaysian government to drop charges

UPDATE: Zunar's trial has been adjourned a number of times. As of 16 September 2015, the trial had been adjourned to November 2015.

Zulkiflee ‘Zunar’ Anwar Haque

The Malaysian government is cracking down on freedom of expression via the expansion and increased use of the Sedition Act (1948). In the past two years, the escalated use of the pre-colonial Act has seen government officials, opposition politicians and the media harassed and often prosecuted.

Among those charged for sedition is Malaysian political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, known under the ink name 'Zunar'.

Following tweets and a cartoon he published in February 2015, Zunar is currently facing 43 years in prison if found guilty of nine counts of sedition.

Zunar was arrested on 10 February this year for tweets allegedly attacking the judiciary over the trial of opposition leader and former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim.

"The lackeys in black robes are proud of their sentence. The rewards from the political masters must be plenty," Zunar wrote in one of his tweets.

In recent years, the satirist and his associates have been constantly investigated and harassed by police. Between 2009 and 2010, the Home Minister for Malaysia banned five of Zunar's books claiming they were detrimental to public order. In September of 2010, Zunar was arrested and detained for publishing a new book called Cartoon-O-Phobia.

In November of 2014, those connected to the sale of Zunar's cartoon books were arrested and questioned under the sedition laws. Further, the online payment gateway that manages the financial transactions of his website was forced to release the details of people who purchased his books.

Zunar is currently out on bail but his case is due in court in Malaysia on 20 May 2015.

We the undersigned members and partners of IFEX – the global network defending freedom of expression – are seriously concerned by the escalating use and increased power of the Sedition Act (1948) in Malaysia over the past 12 months, including the nine counts of sedition against Zulkiflee 'Zunar'Anwar Haque.

We call on the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato' Sri Haji Mohammad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak to withdraw all charges against Zunar and all other persons charged with sedition, and to make a public statement reaffirming the pledge he made in his 2012 election campaign to abolish the Sedition Act (1948).


International Federation of Journalists
Afghanistan Journalists Center
Albanian Media Institute
Association of Caribbean Media Workers
Association of Independent Electronic Media
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism
Bytes for All
Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Center for Independent Journalism - Romania
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Centre for Independent Journalism - Malaysia
Committee to Protect Journalists
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Foro de Periodismo Argentino
Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP
Fundamedios - Andean Foundation for Media Observation and Study
Globe International Center
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
Initiative for Freedom of Expression - Turkey
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information
Institute of Mass Information
International Press Institute
Journaliste en danger
Maharat Foundation
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
Metamorphosis, Foundation for Internet and Society
National Union of Somali Journalists
Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión - OLA
Pakistan Press Foundation
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms - MADA
PEN American Center
PEN Canada
PEN International
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - AMARC
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
What other IFEX members are saying
  • Act to keep Malaysian cartoonist Zunar from serving 43 years in prison

    Join the IFJ Asia-Pacific's petition calling on Malaysia to drop all charges against Zunar and recommit to freedom of expression.

  • Black day for democracy as Malaysia extends sedition law online

    The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the National Union of Journalists, Peninsular Malaysia (NUJM) strongly deplore the latest amendments to Malaysia’s Sedition Act (1948).

  • Court case against Zunar adjourned

    [On May 20] the court adjourned Zunar's sedition case until July 7. Since being charged with nine counts of sedition following a tweet and cartoon he published in February this year, Zunar's case has become an international press freedom issue.

  • Profile: Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque ("Zunar"), Malaysia

    Zunar is the first full-time cartoonist to receive CPJ's International Press Freedom Award. While the attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015 showed the risks some cartoonists face in reprisal for their work, the legal harassment Zunar endures is indicative of the type of threats that outspoken satirists contend with around the world.

  • Cartoonist Zunar could get 43 years in prison for nine cartoons

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