PETALING JAYA: The United Nations (UN) wants the Malaysian government to drop all sedition charges against political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque and lift the travel ban which was imposed on him last June.
UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights Karima Bennoune, who was in Malaysia at Putrajaya’s invitation from Sept 11 to 21, expressed “deep concern” about the charges against Zulkiflee, better known as Zunar.
A report on her preliminary observations following her visit said Bennoune and other UN human rights experts would be following developments closely when Zunar’s trial resumes next week.
The controversial cartoonist faces nine sedition charges for allegedly insulting the judiciary in tweets regarding former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy conviction in February 2015.
He is also seeking to challenge a travel ban imposed on him by the Immigration Department which prohibits him from flying abroad.
In December last year, he filed a judicial review seeking to quash the ban.
He also sought several court declarations that the ban violates his constitutional rights, and that the respondents have no power to restrict him from travelling abroad.
In the UN report, Bennoune called for the repeal of the Sedition Act, and for amendments currently being made to the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) to be consistent with international standards for freedom of expression and cultural rights.
She also urged the repeal or clarification of Sections 211(1) and 233(1) of the CMA, and for the abolition of prior censorship bodies and processes.
“The Malaysian government needs to develop concrete plans to guarantee freedom of artistic expression,” the report said.
It also noted “an urgent need” to review and clarify the criteria for censorship of books and films and to make the decision-making process more transparent to guarantee cultural rights, including freedom of artistic expression.
“Terms like ‘controversial’ or ‘sensitive’ are too subjective to conform to international standards on freedom of expression,” it said.