International and local human rights organisations have slammed what they call the continued harassment of cartoonist Zunar, who was arrested during an exhibition in Penang last Saturday.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisation Suaram called on the government to "immediately end the harassment of renowned cartoonist Zunar and drop all charges against him".
“The arbitrary arrest of Zunar is the latest deplorable act of harassment by a government that is intolerant of any form of peaceful dissent.
"Zunar should never again be harassed or deprived of his liberty for exercising his basic right to freedom of expression,” said FIDH president Dimitris Christopoulos in a statement today.
The cartoonist, whose real name is Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, was detained under the Sedition Act, for allegedly insulting Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
He was released on bail yesterday evening, after the court denied the police's request for four days remand and gave only one day.
Yesterday, anti-Sedition Act group Gerakan Hapus Akta Hasutan (GHAH) reminded the government that Section 3(1)(c) of the act, which had considered criticism against government as an act of sedition, was removed in the amendments passed on April 10, 2015, and gazetted on June 4 last year.
Prior to his arrest, a group led by Penang Umno Youth chief Rafizal Abdul Rahim disrupted Zunar's exhibition and damaged his artworks.
However, Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor has denied the party is responsible for this and a spate of other attacks against critics of the ruling party, and no action has yet been taken by the party on any of its members.
Right to criticise
Suaram reminded the authorities Zunar's political cartoons have earned him worldwide recognition and respect.
“Zunar has every right to display the cartoons that have earned him numerous international honours without hindrance by the authorities or pro-government elements.
"Authorities must respect Zunar’s fundamental rights to freedom of expression and freedom of movement and investigate those responsible for the recent mob attack against him,” said Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy.
"The events (over the weekend) are the latest in a series of acts of judicial harassment targeting Zunar," added the two NGOs.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), meanwhile, joined its affiliate, the National Union of Journalists Malaysia (NUJM), in condemning Zunar’s harassment and arrest, noting that the incident followed a long pattern of harassment against the cartoonist.
“The latest arrest of Zunar demonstrates the ongoing blatant attempts by the government to silence critical voices.
“We demand the withdrawal of all charges against Zunar and again continue our call for the abolishment of the Sedition Act, which has become a tool of repression for the government to threaten and intimidate the country’s media and other dissenting voices,” IFJ said in a statement.
Zunar's arrest followed a series of actions including a travel ban and numerous sedition charges against him over the past years.
It also coincided with a crackdown on critics and opposition politicians following the peaceful Bersih 5 rally calling for electoral, democratic and government reforms.
Pakatan Harapan secretariat chief Saifuddin Abdullah, PKR Penanti assemblyperson Norlela Ariffin and DAP Sekinchan assemblyperson Ng Suee Lim are the latest to be called in to the police station today over Bersih 5.