On 27 November 2016, Malaysian cartoonist Zunar was released a day after his arrest in George Town under the Sedition Act. The following is a press statement from festival director Bernice Chauly on behalf of the George Town Literary Festival in response to his release.
THE George Town Literary Festival is delighted and relieved that prominent Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar has been released. His arrest under the Sedition Act during the festival was an outrageous assault on freedom of expression and a gross human rights abuse.
The George Town Literary Festival has always supported open discourse, criticality, and conversation among our guests who are renowned writers from all over the world alongside our fellow Malaysians. We are offended by this unruly act which reeks of gangsterism and thuggery stemming from the fear of one individual who has every right to free speech and expression.
The GTLF is one of the last bastions of free speech in a country which is becoming more oppressive than ever. All of us present at the festival are shocked and disgusted that this has happened in George Town.
We commend Zunar on his continued bravery, defiance and resistance in the struggle to free the word and the image. In the words of the Chief Minister of Penang, the festival, along with the State of Penang will always be free.
We thank you for your engagement with us. Your presence here, the dialogues and conversations that have happened, and the words you have shared with us will keep this festival going.
George Town Literary Festival ran from 25 – 27 November 2016. Make sure to follow the festival on Facebook and check out social media postings via the hashtags #GTLF and #GTLF2016 to keep up to date! Featured image via Malaysiakini.