Zunar, award winning political cartoonist and activist, was held by the immigration police on October 17, 2016, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. He had been told that he was barred from travelling, effective from June 24.
The order was confirmed by an immigration officer to be instructed directly from the Inspector General Of Police (IGP), Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar. The IGP has no legal right to restrict Zunar’s movement and to bar him from leaving the country without a court order. Zunar intends to legally challenge the travel ban.
Zunar is facing nine charges under the Malaysian Sedition Act over posting his political cartoons, critical of the Malaysian government, on Twitter. The charges are punishable by up to 43 years in prison. However, Zunar has not been convicted and his case is due to take trial only later this year on November 22.
Zunar shared his comments about his travel ban with the JWF:
“This clearly shows gross abuse of power and blatant violation of human rights by these individuals… This is yet another form of long list harassment to stop me from drawing cartoons to criticize the government of Malaysia…
Talent is not a gift, talent is a responsibility. They can ban my books, they can ban my cartoon, they can ban me from traveling, but they cannot ban my mind, I will keep drawing until the last drop of my ink“
Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, known as Zunar, is a well known political cartoonist. His slogan is “How Can I be Neutral, Even My Pen Has a Stand”. He is the winner of the “Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award 2011” by Cartoonists Right Network International, “Cartooning For Peace Award 2016” Geneva, Human Rights Watch’s Hellman/Hammett Award for 2011 & 2015, International Press Freedom Award and “Committee to Protect Journalist” award, New York 2015.
The prominent cartoonist has been harassed by the Malaysian authorities for years over his political cartoons. He had been held behind bars twice before, in 2010 and 2015, while his office in Kuala Lumpur was repeatedly raided, with thousands of his cartoon books confiscated.
With total disregard to freedom of expression, five of Zunar’s cartoon books are banned in Malaysia. The printers and book stores, which carry his cartoon works throughout the country, have been raided and warned by authorities that their licence would be revoked if they print and distribute Zunar’s work.
In October 2014, three of Zunar’s assistants were arrested for selling his cartoon books. The webmaster, who managed his website and online book store, was called in by the police for interrogation.
JWF calls the Malaysian authorities to remove the travel ban from Zunar immediately and drop all charges against him.