Drop charges against cartoonist Zunar, urge five international NGOs

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Article 19, English PEN, Index on Censorship, Media Legal Defence Initiative and PEN International have written to Prime Minister Najib Razak calling for the charges against cartoonist Zunar to be dropped.

Cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwarul Haque or Zunar faces a record-breaking nine charges under the Sedition Act for comments made on Twitter, and if convicted, could face up to 43 years imprisonment.

The Malaysian authorities have intensified their crackdown on journalists, writers, activists, students, academics and artists. We condemn these rights violations and urge the international community to support the right of Zunar and everyone in Malaysia to speak freely.

The letter in full:

Dear Prime Minister Najib,

We, the undersigned international organisations, urge the Malaysian authorities to drop charges against cartooonist Zulkiflee Anwarul Haque or Zunar, who is currently facing a record-breaking nine charges under the Sedition Act for comments made on the social media network Twitter, for which – if convicted – he could face up to 43 years in prison.

We also call upon the Malaysian authorities to repeal the Sedition Act, a law that is used as a tool to stifle legitimate debate and dissent. In 2012, Prime Minister Najib Razak made a commitment to repeal the Sedition Act.

However, following the most recent election, he has instead extended the Sedition Act’s reach and strengthened the penalties for infringement in a move we believe is intended to help maintain his party’s hold on power.

Freedom of expression is an essential part of any democratic society and the Malaysian authorities must protect this right for all, including those who are critical of government. Rather than safeguard this right, the authorities have intensified their crackdown on journalists, writers, activists, students, academics and artists.

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We, the undersigned international organisations, condemn these violations and urge the international community to support Zunar and everyone in Malaysia to speak freely in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Sincerely,

ARTICLE 19
English PEN
Index on Censorship
Media Legal Defence Initiative
PEN International

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