Malaysian Political Cartoonist Selected for Amnesty International’s “Write for Rights” 2015 Campaign
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | 2 OCTOBER 2015
Popular cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, or “Zunar”, has been chosen as the first Malaysian for Amnesty International’s Write for Rights 2015 campaign – the biggest global campaign by the human rights organization held annually.
The Write for Rights (#W4R) 2015 is currently in its 12th year and is Amnesty International’s largest activism event that attracts hundreds of thousands of people around the world to act on behalf of those persecuted.
“Through the #W4R campaign, members and supporters of Amnesty International take solidarity actions to demonstrate their support and to stand up for others whose rights have been trampled on,” Amnesty International Malaysia Executive Director Shamini Darshni said at a press conference to announce Zunar’s inclusion in the campaign.
Amnesty International included Zunar in its #W4R campaign following his nine charges under the Sedition Act, a colonial-era law used by the Malaysian government to clampdown on the freedom of expression under the guise of protecting national security and deterring racial or religious unrest.
Zunar faces a long prison sentence for Tweets he posted on 10 February 2015 criticizing the judiciary following the jailing of Anwar Ibrahim, former opposition leader and an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience. Anwar’s five-year sentence on the trumped-up charges of “sodomy” has also been criticized by Amnesty International as being politically motivated.
“We believe that the freedom of expression is central to all other freedoms, but in countries like Malaysia, regulation has become one of the most common and insidious tools used to hamper and restrict freedoms around the world. The Malaysian government’s persistent reliance on the Sedition Act and other repressive laws to arrest, charge, imprison or otherwise intimidate Zunar and other human rights defenders is deplorable, and indicative of the downward spiral in Malaysia’s respect for fundamental human rights,” Shamini said.
Zunar has been targeted numerous times as a result of his political cartoons, and currently holds the record for the highest number of sedition charges in Malaysia. Five of his cartoon books have been banned by the Malaysian government for allegedly having content that is "detrimental to public order”. Recently, his latest book, “Sapuman – Man of Steal”, has also received police attention with the impending questioning of a sales assistant. His office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, has been raided several times and thousands of his cartoon books have been confiscated.
“We are proud to be teaming up with Zunar in this global campaign, through which we are reaching out to the seven million Amnesty International activists, and the larger global community beyond, to draw international attention to the fact that all is not well with the freedom of expression in Malaysia,” Shamini said.
“The freedom of expression in Malaysia continues to come under attack. Government authorities are displaying the greatest contempt for international freedom of expression standards by targeting and attempting to silence dissent rather than addressing the issues that bring them about. The free flow of information and ideas is essential for a healthy, progressive society. Zunar’s peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression remains at the core of Amnesty’s advocacy efforts,” she added.
Through the #W4R campaign, Amnesty International activists will be calling on the Malaysian authorities to drop all charges against the cartoonist; urge them to ensure that Zunar and those working with him are not restricted or harassed as they exercise their right to freedom of expression; and to end the Sedition Act and all other repressive laws while ensuring compliance with international human rights laws and standards.
Zunar, who believes that talent is not a gift, but a responsibility, is determined to keep drawing until his drop of ink.
“Neutrality is a form of escapism. Staying silent is not an option. Even my pen has a stand,” he said.
Amnesty International’s other 11 #W4R cases are: the Kawama community in Katanga, Africa; girl victims of forced marriages in Burkino Faso; torture survivor Yecenia Armenta Graciano of Mexico; prisoners Teodora del Carmen Vasquez of El Salvador and Albert Woodfox of the United States; Myanmarese activist Phyoe Phyoe Aung; journalist Muhammad Bekzhanov of Uzbekistan; Costas, a survivor of a homophobic and racist attack in Greece; online activist Waleed Abu Al-Khair of Saudi Arabia; victims of enforced disappearance Rania Alabbasi, and her six children in Syria; and torture survivor Saman Naseem of Iran.
Background on the Write for Rights (#W4R) campaign
Previously known as the Letter Writing Marathon and first launched in 2003, hundreds of thousands of people around the world write to someone they have never met, each year on Human Rights Day (10 December). Amnesty International identifies specific cases, calling on activists to take action on their behalf. Through letters, tweets, emails, faxes, text messages and petitions that arrive in government offices, prisons and to families all over the world, change is possible: prison conditions improve; prisoners are released, human rights defenders are better protected.
Letter-writing remains a core of Amnesty International’s over 53 years of human rights activism. By writing letters during Write for Rights 2015 campaign, activists help remind the world that words really do have the power to change lives.
For more information, please contact Amnesty International Malaysia office:
Amnesty International Malaysia
D-2-33A, 8 Avenue
Jalan Sungai Jernih 8/1, Section 8
46050 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
T: +603 7955 2680
F: +603 7955 2682
W : amnesty.my