The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticizes the Malaysian government’s continued attack against freedom of expression, following the investigation into political cartoonist, Zunar’s latest book. The IFJ calls on the Malaysian government to repeal the archaic Sedition Act and guarantee freedom of expression in the country.
On Tuesday, September 29, political cartoonist, Zulkifi ‘Zunar’ Anwar Uljaqur announced Malaysian police had begun an investigation into his latest book, Sapuman – Man of Steal. An online sales assistant on Zunar’s website was called in for questioning next week under the Sedition Act. In a statement, Zunar said: “I strongly condemn these latest police tactics to frighten people from getting access to read and buy my book. My sales assistant did nothing illegal as the Sapuman – Man of Steal” is not officially banned by the government.”
Seven of Zunar’s books are already banned by the government with copies confiscated by the police. This is second incident of police investigation of the online sales operator for distribution of Zunar’s books. Earlier this year, Zunar was charged with nine counts of sedition following a tweet and cartoon he published after the verdict in the controversial trial of former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim. Under the charges, which have been adjourned in court three times already, Zunar faces 43 years in jail.
In 2010 and 2014, Zunar was investigated under the Sedition Act. He was detained for two days in September 2010 and, most recently, for three days in February 2015.
The IFJ said: “The continued suppression of freedom of expression by the Malaysian government continues to impede on press freedom and freedom of speech across the country. The Sedition Act has become a tool of repression for the government, silencing critics, threatening and intimidating the country’s media. Zunar has become a continued target of the government and this needs to be stopped.”
In May, following the charging of Zunar, the IFJ wrote a letter to Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak, with signatures from International freedom of expression organisations calling for the Sedition Act to be repealed and the charges against Zunar be dropped. The IFJ also launched a global petition, which to date, has 10,223 signatures.