On new year’s day, Malaysian cartoonist Zunar (real name Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque) took to major American newspaper The Washington Post to speak out against charges laid upon him by the Malaysian government. After posting nine tweets critical of the ruling coalition, he currently faces up to 43 years in jail.
In the entry, Zunar details his struggles. He brings up his detainment in February, in which the 53-year old stated he was “handcuffed for eight hours and thrown into a cell with all the other criminal suspects”.
Zunar also lamented the fact that authorities not only went after his staff and publishers, but also threatened stores which carried his books.
My office has been raided multiple times since 2009, and authorities have confiscated thousands of my cartoon books. In 2010, five of my books — including “1 Funny Malaysia” — were banned by the home affairs minister, who declared the contents “detrimental to public order.” Later that year I was detained by police and locked up for two days after the publication of “Cartoon-O-Phobia.” To say the least, the Malaysian government has no sense of humor.
— Zunar, The Washington Post
Charged under the 1948 Sedition Act, Zunar hopes to gather support from the people. Amnesty International has highlighted him on their platform, aiming to garner enough attention for the case to be dropped and for the Sedition Act to be repealed.
In the first six months of 2015, more than 40 journalists, academics, political activists and lawyers were interrogated, arrested or charged under the Sedition Act. The space for dissent and debate in Malaysia is disappearing fast.
International news outlets have rallied behind Zunar to spread word on his case. Zunar’s piece for The Washington Post has since appeared in prominent Australian publications Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times and The Age.
Thus far, only two Malaysian news agencies have shared his post, namely The Malaysian Insider and Malaysia Chronicle (which at present remains blocked).