Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) strongly condemns the continuous harassment and gross abuse of power by the police against political cartoonist Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, better known by his pen name Zunar. We demand that the police and home minister return all confiscated books to Zunar and to cease all form of harassment against Zunar.
The raiding of Zunar's office’s on Jan 28, 2015 is unreasonable and can only be described as pure harassment. The authorities need to be reminded that Zunar, as a citizen, has rights guaranteed under Article 10 of the federal constitution to freely exercise his right to freedom of expression. It is against common sense to argue that political satire cartoons can be detrimental to public order and it definitely cannot be held to be a threat to national security.
It is ludicrous and unacceptable that no warrant was produced by the police before conducting the search. The police had in late 2014 investigated Zunar, his assistants and webmasters under three different legislations - the Sedition Act 1948, the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, and Section 500 of the Penal Code.
The investigations were done over two books - ‘Konspirasi Memenjarakan Anwar’ and ‘Pirates of the Carry-BN’ - the same titles that were confiscated by the police on Jan 29, 2015. There has been no further follow-up from the police since the statements were taken. This sudden raid and confiscation of Zunar’s books is highly suspicious and appears to be part of the government’s ongoing campaign to halt Zunar’s expressions and ideas from reaching others.
For the longest time, Zunar has been attacked by the police and the Home Ministry for producing cartoons that were purported to be detrimental to public order. More than 400 copies of his books were confiscated and five of his books titled ‘Perak Darul Kartun’, ‘1 Funny Malaysia’, ‘Isu Dalam Kartun’ Vol 1, 2 and 3 were banned by the home minister from 2009 to 2010.
The government's determination to persecute Zunar was extended to printers, vendors and bookstores around the country - their premises were raided and they were warned to not print or carry any of Zunar’s books in the future.
The police’s conduct contradicts the Court of Appeal’s ruling on Oct 9, 2014, which lifted a ban imposed by Home Minister on two of Zunar’s cartoon books ‘Perak Darul Kartun’ and ‘1 Funny Malaysia’ on grounds that they were not a threat to national security or prejudicial to public order.
In delivering his judgement, Justice Mohamad Ariff stated that the law should not be abused by the executive and that public odium cannot be so conveniently equated with public order. Nevertheless, the Home Ministry, in a letter dated Nov 10, 2014, informed Zunar and his lawyer that they are appealing at the Federal Court to have the Court of Appeal’s decision struck out, insisting that Zunar’s cartoon satire is prejudicial to public order.
In recent years, the government has increased its efforts in curtailing freedom of expression, predominantly under the Sedition Act and alternatively under the Penal Code, Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.
It is extremely disappointing that individuals who fearlessly speak up and express their thoughts are deemed as criminals by the authority. The government, by doing this, is putting itself in the same category as tyrannical and repressive regimes. No one should be subjected to intimidation, criminalisation and imprisonment for producing satirist cartoons, which are a legitimate expression of political opinions through the form of art.
Freedom of expression is a defining attribute of democratic states and political satire is a bellwether of the extent of openness of a country. Suaram hereby urges the government to immediately cease all form of harassment and prosecution against Zunar and to return all confiscated books, as well as to respect our rights to freedom of expression.