Press Statement: 27 September 2010

Political Cartoonist Arrested: More Government Crackdowns to Limit Freedom of Expression

SUARAM condemns the arrest of cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque (better known as Zunar), which points to the continuing trend of intimidation to curb freedom of expression in the country.

10 police officers from the Brickfields police station, led by ASP Arikrishnan Apparau, raided his office premises at 4pm on 24thSeptember and seized 66 copies of his latest book, Cartoon-o-phobia, which was due to be launched that night.

Zunar’s arrest under the Sedition Act and the banning of his previous 3 books – 1 Funny Malaysia, Perak Darul Kartun and Isu Dalam Kartun, appears to be the latest of the numerous examples of the government’s attempts to intimidate and selectively target certain public personalities to shrink the public space for free expression and discussion, and to silence voices of dissent.

Zunar’s critical stance towards the BN government in his books has made him a target for harassment and persecution by the government. As such, SUARAM denounces this arrest as yet another form of abuse of power by the police, which appears to be acting at the behest of the government in its ongoing attacks and intimidation on freedom of expression – a fundamental right which is guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

During the arrest, Zunar was moved to multiple police stations, starting from Brickfields, and finally ending up in Sepang. This ‘roadshow’ was unnecessary since he could’ve had his statement taken at Brickfields and released on police bail. His lawyer was also not given adequate notice for his remand hearing and the remand order was given without his lawyer being present. This is a clear abuse of power; a denial of Zunar’s right to justice; and a contravention of the legal process, where the judiciary is supposed to protect the rights of detainees.

SUARAM therefore strongly urges the government to immediately stop its harassment and persecution of those who exercise their constitutional right to hold and express views and opinions, including those critical of the government and its policies.

The clear violations of fundamental human rights in the government’s ongoing attacks on freedom of expression brings to question Malaysia’s commitment to the very basic and minimal human rights standards which are universally accepted and observed, let alone its obligations as a current elected member of the UN Human Rights Council.

Released by,

Hasbeemasputra Abu Bakar

Coordinator