Bangkok, February 2, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Malaysian authorities to halt the legal harassment of a Malaysian cartoonist. Zulkiflee Awar Ulhaque, also known as Zunar, is a frequent contributor to the news website Malaysiakini and the author of several volumes of political cartoons.
Police on January 28 raided Zunar’s Kuala Lumpur-based office and questioned the staff, according to news reports. Police also seized more than 100 copies of Zunar’s cartoon publications, Pirates of the Carry BN and Conspiracy to Imprison Anwar, in the raid, the reports said.
At the time of the raid, Zunar was in London to give a talk called “To fight through cartoons,” news reports said. In a statement, Zunar said police had acted under the Printing Press and Publication Act, Sedition Act, and the Penal Code, and that he would be summoned for interrogation when he returned to Malaysia, reports said.
Authorities did not immediately comment on the raid.
Zunar was arrested in September 2010, hours ahead of the scheduled launch of a book of his political cartoons, Cartoon-o-phobia. He is still under police investigation on charges of sedition filed against him that year, according to news reports. If convicted, he faces up to three years in jail.
“We call on Malaysian authorities to stop harassing political cartoonist Zunar and to drop all charges against him,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Instead of threatening critics with an outdated sedition law, Prime Minister Razak Najib should be working to scrap the legislation, as he once vowed to do.”
Zunar challenged the legality of the Home Ministry’s 2010 banning of two of his previous cartoon books, 1 Funny Malaysia and Perak Darul Kartun. He won a reversal of that ban in October 2014, in which Court of Appeal judges ruled “it will be most exceptional if a political cartoon will have the effect of disturbing public order, security, or safety of a nation.”
Prime Minister Razak Najib pledged to repeal the Sedition Act in mid-2012 as part of a raft of political reforms, according to press reports. He reversed that vow in a November 27, 2014, speech, saying his government would instead strengthen the law with a special clause “to protect the sanctity of Islam.”