The Southeast Asian Press Alliance calls on the Malaysian authorities to drop the nine charges under the Sedition Act 1948 against popular political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, or Zunar.
Zunar claimed trial to the nine charges on April 3, for his tweet on February 10 following the Federal Court’s decision to uphold the guilty verdict of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for sodomising his former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhar Azlan in 2008.
The Sedition Act is a law that was enacted during the British rule and is widely criticised for its overly broad and vague definitions of sedition, and that is open to abuse.
The Malaysian Insider reported that the nine charges were in sets of three and related to Zunar’s Twitter postings: the first three reportedly against the judges, the second three related to Zunar’s alleged comments that Anwar’s verdict was predetermined, and the last three related to comments criticising the administration of justice since the sacking of a former Lord President in the late 1980s.
The case management has been fixed for May 10.
According to media reports, Zunar was released on bail but was immediately re-arrested for investigation under the Communications and Multimedia Act for a photo he had allegedly posted over the Facebook.
“As a vocal critic of the government and its abuses, Zunar has been dragged to court many times over the content of his publications. The latest charges under the Sedition Act over what legitimate political expressions, are done in bad faith,” said SEAPA Executive Director Gayathry Venkiteswaran.
As of this date, 30 members of the opposition political parties, academics, lawyers, students, journalists and other individuals have been charged or investigated under the law.
SEAPA calls for an end to the political persecution of individuals in Malaysia and for the Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to honour his pledge to repeal the Sedition Act.