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Cartoonist Zunar could get 43 years in prison for nine cartoons

September 9, 2015

Reporters Without Borders condemns well-known cartoonist Zunar’s trial on a sedition charge for posting nine of his cartoons on Twitter, and urges the Malaysian authorities to stop harassing him judicially and psychologically.

Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee Anwar Alhaque, will be facing up to 43 years in prison on nine counts under the Sedition Act at the trial, which starts tomorrow after being postponed from 7 July.

The nine cartoons criticized corruption in Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s government and the high-profile trial of opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim.

“We deplore the persecution of Zunar and urge the Malaysian authorities to drop all the charges against him,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.

“This iniquitous trial is the latest example of the Najib Razak government’s political reprisals against Zunar, reprisals that it now takes openly. Its repeated use of the Sedition Act, which in this case criminalizes political cartoons, is totally illegitimate and disproportionate.”

In the past two years, the Malaysian government has repeatedly used the Sedition Act, a draconian law dating back to 1948, to bring judicial proceedings designed to silence dissenting voices and compel journalists and content providers to censor themselves.

The proceedings against Zunar are of the type known as a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) or gag suit. Even if Zunar does not get a jail sentence, the proceedings have a chilling effect, they deter the public from expressing their views and protesting, and they encourage cartoonists and media outlets in general to censor themselves.

Zunar has already been detained twice under the Sedition Act, for two days in September 2010 after he published a book of his cartoons called “Cartoon-o-phobia” and for three days in February 2015 after the police raided his office on 28 January and seized about 100 of his cartoons and other works.

The Malaysian authorities have banned seven of his works as “detrimental to public order.”

Malaysia is ranked 147th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

For more information contact:
Reporters Without Borders
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84

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