Wikipedia founder joins worldwide chorus in support of Zunar

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PETALING JAYA: The co-founder of popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia has joined international cartoonist bodies in urging Putrajaya to lift the travel ban on political cartoonist Zunar.

Jimmy Wales Foundation (JWF), helmed by prominent Internet entrepreuner Jimmy Wales who launched Wikipedia in 2001, noted that Zunar had been harassed by the authorities for years over his political cartoons.

“JWF calls the Malaysian authorities to remove the travel ban on Zunar immediately and drop all charges against him,” it said in a statement.

On Monday, Zunar, or Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, was stopped from boarding a flight to Singapore by immigration authorities, who said the order came directly from the Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar.

The ban was condemned by Amnesty International, saying it was unconstitutional.

“Malaysian authorities must respect and protect the right to freedom of expression, including removing travel restrictions which are unconstitutional and violating internationally recognised human rights,” Amnesty said yesterday.

Several world cartoonist bodies have also condemned the restrictions on Zunar.

“We were worried about this for some time. The authorities must lift this illegal infringement upon Zunar’s rights,” said Cartoonist Rights Network International who awarded Zunar the “Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award” in 2011.

Zunar, who is facing nine charges under the Sedition Act over political cartoons critical of the government, has over the years won several awards, including last year’s “Cartooning For Peace Award” in Geneva.

In 2015, he was named the recipient of the International Press Freedom award in New York.

“By drawing and commenting on current affairs with talent, impertinence and humour, cartoonists test and expand the bounds of freedom of expression, and thereby, extend our own freedom,” said Geneva-based Cartooning For Peace Faundation.

Other bodies who voiced concerns over the latest restriction on Zunar include The Cartoon Movement, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Article 19 and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).