Malaysia’s decision to dismiss a challenge to the colonial-era Sedition Act has limited the country’s freedom of expression.
The Federal Court’s ruling is a setback to persecuted Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, aka Zunar, who is facing nine simultaneous charges under the law and will appear court on 6 November.
“The ‘approval’ of the Sedition Act by the Federal Court is totally disappointing, unacceptable and undemocratic,” Zunar said in a statement.
The court, challenged by law professor Azmi Sharom, ruled on 6 October that the Sedition Act 1948 remains constitutional and a valid piece of legislation. Azmi had argued that the Sedition Act 1948 is not a valid law as it was not enacted by parliament and contradicted with the Article 10 of Malaysia’s constitution.
Article 10 of the constitution states, that “(a) every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression; (b) all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.”
Zunar said: “The decision by the court simply mocked the Constitution and [is] politically motivated.”
The cartoonist said the Sedition Act has been used as political weapon by the government to constrain and curtail freedom of expression since it was introduced in 1948. More than 200 activists – students, lecturers, lawyers, writers, religious activists, opposition leaders and cartoonist – have either been arrested, detained, investigated or charged since last year.
“I am now being slapped with nine charges under the draconian act and facing a possible 43 years of jail term,” he added. “The hope to get justice from the court is just fairy tale.”
Last week, an online sales assistant working for Zunar was told to attend a meeting with police related to the sales of the cartoonist’s books.