Malaysia: Cartoonist Zunar arrested on charges of sedition
28 Nov 2016

Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, aka Zunar, was arrested on 26 November under the Sedition Act for his cartoons which are deemed insulting to the country’s prime minister Najib Razak.

The artist was questioned under the penal code under suspicion of intentionally humiliating a person. He was released the next day.

“Even though I have been released, the harassment from the Malaysian government is far from over. I have to report back to the police in Penang on 27 December 2016 for further investigation. And yesterday (26 November), two peeple who assisted me in organizing the exhibition were also called up by the police for questioning,” the cartoonist said in a statement.

On 25 November Zunar was forced to end his three-day exhibition after only a few hours when a group of “pro-government thugs,” believed to be a part of the United Malays National Organisation, physically assaulted the cartoonist and damaged his displayed work. “They pulled my shirt and threw a punch at me,” Zunar told Index, “but people came and rescued me.”

The Malaysian government has long attempted to silence the cartoonist, who currently is awaiting trial on nine charges of sedition, which carry a potential 43-year jail term, for his cartoons government-critical cartoons. The trial is set for 24 January 2017 and Zunar is currently on bail.

A travel ban was placed on Zunar on 24 June of this year but was Zunar only became aware of the limitation when he was held by immigration police at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport when attempting to leave Malaysia on 17 October.

Zunar has been arrested twice before, once for two days in 2010 for publishing his book Cartoon-O-Phobia, and again for three days in 2015 for violating the Sedition Act.

The Sedition Act, which was put in place to silence opposition to British colonial rule in 1948, has become a popular way for the Malaysian government to silence critical voices such as Zunar. The award-winning cartoonist has been challenging the law for years.

“I can smell that the 10th charge of the Sedition Act is on the way. I am already facing 9 charges under that draconian act and the trial is set to be on 24 January 2017,” Zunar said.

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