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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Zunar probe proves govt doesn’t tolerate criticism, says rights group

 

A caricature by Zunar featuring Kedah menteri besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor has landed the political cartoonist in hot water.

PETALING JAYA: The move to investigate cartoonist Zunar for mischief and abuse of the internet is proof that the government does not tolerate public criticism, said rights group Article 19.

Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee Anwar Alhaque, today said police told him he would be probed over his caricature depicting Kedah menteri besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor’s decision to cancel this year’s Thaipusam holiday in the state last January.

“The investigation of Zunar is a further example of the Malaysian government’s intolerance of public criticism,” Article 19’s Malaysia programme officer Nalini Elumalai said.

“The persecution of artists such as Zunar and Fahmi (graphic designer Fahmi Reza) stifles creative expression, chills public discourse, and undermines trust in Malaysian authorities.”

Article 19’s Malaysia programme officer Nalini Elumalai.

Sanusi’s cancellation of the public holiday declared for Thaipusam this year, which he said was due to the movement control order, sparked a row among Indian political leaders from both sides of the political divide.

Rights groups also called out Sanusi for his decision, stating it was an ignorant move that could affect the harmony among races enjoyed by the country all this while.

Zunar, meanwhile, today said the dropping of the Thaipusam holiday was a “bruise” on his home state’s harmonious social fabric. He stood by his caricature, saying it was his right to comment on the issue.

Speaking to FMT, he said an inspector had asked him to be present at the Padang Terap district police headquarters on Sunday.

According to Zunar, he was being probed under Section 505 (c) of the Penal Code for making statements conducive to public mischief with intent to incite the community to cause them to commit an offence against any other communities, and also under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) for abuse of network services.

“The CMA is one of the primary laws used by the government to target human rights defenders, activists, and politically-engaged Malaysians,” Nalini said.

“By repeatedly turning to the CMA to target artists and activists, the authorities are signalling that criticism and political dissent is not permitted in Malaysia.” - FMT

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