We have yet another attack on free speech and the free press from one of our allies. Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Alhaque, better known as Zunar, has been hit with nine counts of sedition for tweets critical of the country’s judiciary. It is an outrageous prosecution brought under a law that defines sedition as any comment that promotes hatred toward the government. Zunar previously defended his art against claims that it is defamatory. Zunar faces up to 43 years in jail if found guilty on all nine charges.
The notion of such an abusive prosecution being brought in the name of defending the legal system is truly Orwellian and should be denounced by the entire Malaysian bar if it has an ounce of integrity.
His tweets responded to the start of a five-year term by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on a sodomy charge. Zunar tweeted “The lackeys in black robes are proud of their sentence. The rewards from the political masters must be plenty.” He also tweeted that “Today Malaysia is seen as a country without law.” The latter statement shows the interesting disconnect in sedition laws. For defamation, truth is a defense and this is clearly a true statement. However, for sedition, even true statements can be viewed as bringing contempt or hatred toward the government.
The best way to disprove Zunar and to show that Malaysia is a country of laws is to rescind this infamous law. Otherwise, Malaysia is just one more nation standing against the basic principles of human rights and civil liberties.