Malaysia: Cartoonist accused of slandering Kedah state official

On May 7, Zulkiflee Anwar Alhaque, more popularly known as Zunar, was questioned by the Kedah police over a caricature of Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls upon the Malaysian authorities to drop all charges against Zunar.

Malaysian cartoonist Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, popularly known as Zunar, has been charged with sedition. Credit: MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP

According to Zunar, he is being investigated under the Penal Code for making a statement which had “intent to incite” and under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 for improper use of network services. Three police reports have been lodged against him. Zunar said that he was interrogated by the Kedah police for several hours about the cartoon, had his phone seized and that he was not informed of the official complaint over his action. If convicted, he faces jail term up to two year, a fine or both.

On January 21, Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi said Thaipusam would not be observed as a public holiday due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Zunar’s cartoon showed the Menteri Besar chopping different races of people with the caption “Kedahans lived peacefully before he came”, which was deemed to be ‘slanderous’ by authorities.

The decision by the Kedah Menteri Besar was criticised by rights groups and political leaders including the Indian community-based political party, Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) who reportedly accused the Menteri Besar of being biased towards the Hindu population. According to Zunar, his work was based on a current issue and he leaves it to the people to interpret it.

The IFJ said: “We call upon the Malaysia authorities to ensure freedom of expression and allow Zunar to continue his work without fear of reprisal. Cartoons are a vital form of political expression and Malaysian authorities must not misuse force to intimidate, attack and unjustly incarcerate media workers."

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