Freedom of Expression

43 Years in Prison for a Tweet?

Cartoonist Zunar charged with 9 counts of sedition.

KUALA LUMPUR, The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar and his lawyer were informed on April 2nd that he is to face trial for nine charges of sedition, and faces a potential 43 years in prison over a tweet he posted in February. Zunar, whose full name is Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, has described the sudden charges as an act of the government’s personal vendetta against him and his work.

In February, Zunar was arrested after posting a political cartoon criticizing Malaysia’s government to Twitter. He was arrested under a law held over from Malaysia’s time as a British colony which criminalizes any conduct with a “serious tendency” to bring “hatred or contempt” against the head of state.

Zunar’s arrest was met with criticism across the globe from human rights organizations exposing Malaysia’s attempt to fight free expression with the force of its government, consistently ranked among the world’s worst for free speech. In February, The Voice Project launched a campaign petitioning for Zunar’s release. He was released the following day on bail with no clear charges raised against him. But now he has been informed that the charges of sedition are being brought forth, carrying a possible prison term of up to 43 years.

The cartoonist, long critical of the country’s legal system, said that he was prepared to be charged, saying, “I expect this, I am already prepared for the worst as a political cartoonist in Malaysia when you fight an oppressive government.”

The Voice Project is calling upon the Malaysian government to drop the charges against the cartoonist with Voice Project executive director Hunter Heaney saying, “If individual governments are going to call upon obscure laws to imprison their citizens for simply expressing a viewpoint, then we need to come to each other’s aid across geographic borders. It’s up to us all to stand up for one another, this is how it has to work now.”

Zunar has commented in the past that the legal system should be “the last defenders of a democratic country. If you still have an independent judiciary, people will still have hope. But if you don’t have, nobody will protect us anymore.”

While Zunar may have been proven right about the state of the Malaysian legal system, we can prove that he is not on his own. Please join The Voice Project in calling for Malaysia to drop the charges against this artist. We need your voice on this.

Sean Eckmann
The Voice Project
Campaign Director


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