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“The arrest of Zunar is an outrage. The charge of sedition against him must be dropped immediately and he must be unconditionally released from detention. What we are seeing is the choking of dissent in Malaysia, where repressive laws are being used to silence and punish peaceful voices under the guise of national security,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

“Zunar’s arrest comes as Maria Chin Abdullah, the chair of the Bersih movement, unjustifiably remains in solitary confinement. She was arrested under repressive national security laws on November 18, a day before thousands of activists took to the streets to peacefully demand electoral reforms and an end to corruption. Maria Chin Abdullah and all other prisoners of conscience should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Background

The famed Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Unlhaque, better known as Zunar, was formerly featured as an Amnesty International Write for Rights case, who explained the charges against him in a Washington Post op-ed last year. He was arrested on November 26 under Malaysia’s draconian Sedition Act, for cartoons that allegedly offended Prime Minister Najib Razak. He is being taken to court tomorrow, November 27, for a remand hearing.

Zunar's arrest today under the Sedition Act and Penal Code came after he displayed his artwork for public viewing. For Zunar, it is the latest in a series of assaults on his right to freedom of expression, which have included previous arrests under the Sedition Act and a travel ban.

In 2012, Prime Minister Najib Razak had promised to abolish the Sedition Act, but he reneged on that commitment, and the law has been amended to introduce even harsher punishments.

Amnesty International calls on the Malaysian authorities to repeal the colonial-era sedition laws and release all prisoners of conscience held under them, dropping all charges and expunging any convictions.

Maria Chin Abdullah, the chair of the Bersih movement, was arrested on November 18, a day before thousands of Malaysians took to the streets to peacefully demand electoral reforms and accountability for corruption.

She is being held in solitary confinement after being charged under Malaysia’s Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or Sosma.

The Sedition Act and Sosma are repressive laws that have been increasingly favoured by Malaysian authorities as tools to silence and punish dissenting voices.