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Civil activists, NGOs stand behind Zunar

Source : Malaysiakini

In a show of solidarity, a group of civil rights activists and NGOs fighting for media independence and freedom of expression, showed their support for political cartoonist Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque.

ngo support zunar cartoon pc 260910 josh hongYesterday Zulkifli better known by his pen name of Zunar, was picked up by the police and copies of his newly published book ‘Cartoon-o-phobia’ were seized by police.

“Enough is enough,” said One Muted Malaysia coordinator Josh Hong (right) during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) today.

The political columnst said that they are sending a clear message to the government that the public will no longer accept such draconian dictates from the government such as the harassment that Zunar faced yesterday.

“It is time for the public to claim back the right to speech,” said Hong who also represents Writer’s Alliance for Media Indepence (Wami).

He added that One Muted Malaysia is demanding that the government give a clear explanation of why the raid was conducted, that they return the 70 or so copies of Zunar’s books that was seized and abolish the PPPA which is being used as tool of oppression.

528 Media Action Group representative Ng Yap Hwa said that the government’s action goes contrary to its stated objectives of creating a harmonious Malaysia.

“Greater democratic space must go hand in hand with the economic development,” stressed Ng.

Agreeing with Ng, Goh Kean Seng from the LLG Cultural Development Centre said that the “atmosphere of terror” that the government is creating by arresting Zunar “is not conducive to the slogan of 1Malaysia”.

Against democratic principles

More seriously, Faisal Mustaffa of Bersih 2.0 believes that the harassment of Zunar goes against democratic principles.

ngo support zunar cartoon pc 260910 representativesHe accused the government of “using” acts like the PPPA and the Sediction Act and agencies like the police “for their own political gain”.

Faisal believes that counter-criticism and not stern action should be used in handling views that the government do not agree with.

He urged the government or public figures who disagreed with Zunar’s work to publish their own books, blogs, cartoons and articles in open discourse.

Center for Policy Initiatives (CPI) researcher Helen Ang who was herself investigated for sedition recently decried what she believed is systemic harassment of those who are in the public domain and give their opinion to the public.

Citing the number of people being investigated for sedition in the last few weeks, as the government “terrorising its citizens”.

“The police are big bullies. When they question us they take away our time. It is distracting and disrupting,” added Ang.

Comic strips to prison stripes

Zunar, who also made an appearance at the press conference recounted his ordeal yesterday and last night of being shuttled between seven police stations and police unsureness on under what act to charge him.

ngo support zunar cartoon pc 260910 zunarHe thanked everyone for their support of him, and reiterated his vow to carry on drawing cartoon.

“Even if I have to go from cartoon strips to prison stripes, this is a sacrifice I am willing to make.”

Also at the press conference were representatives from the KLSCAH’s Civil Rights Committee and Zunar’s publisher KiniBooks, a division of Malaysiakini, whose offices were also searched by police yesterday in relation to their investigation of Zunar’s comic.