Cartoons not a threat, protesters not terrorists, says NGO


KUALA LUMPUR: ARTICLE 19, an international NGO, says cartoons are not a threat to society and that those who protest against governments are not terrorists.

It also said women’s rights organisations were not “detrimental to democracy”, referring to the recent police raid on the group Empower.

ARTICLE 19 said the criminal investigations into Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah and activists and politicians who were arrested before and following the Bersih 5 rally, cartoonist Zunar, and any staff of Empower, must cease.

Additionally, it said in a statement today, the nine pending Sedition charges against political cartoonist Zunar, must be dropped without condition.

ARTICLE 19 noted the recent attack on Zunar, by a group of about 30 people opposed to an exhibition of his cartoons at Komtar Mall, Penang, because they found the works to be insulting to Prime Minister Najib Razak and that the day after the attack police arrested Zunar, and not those who had attacked him.

International human rights law gives heightened protection to artistic expression, in particular where it is of a political nature; the state cannot restrict artistic expression simply because it embarrasses those in positions of power,” it said.

International human rights law, it said, was clear that civil society organisations had the right to freedom of association, which included a right to seek, receive and use resources including financial resources, regardless of the country of origin.

The NGO called on the Malaysian government to stop harassing and intimidating civic society organisations, artists, and other critics of the government.

It also called for the repeal of the Sedition Act 1948, Section 124C of the Penal Code, and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma).

ARTICLE 19 advised Putrajaya to respond to allegations of corruption and wrongdoing “with commitments to greater transparency, openness and accountability, rather than increased restrictions on civic space and the repression of independent and oppositional voices”.

The London-based NGO, which focuses on freedom of expression, called on Malaysia to sign and ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which gives strong protections to freedom of expression.

“We call for an end to the government’s campaign of harassment and intimidation, and for the repeal of draconian laws abused to repress legitimate dissent,” ARTICLE 19 said.

“A government that respects human rights does not imprison cartoonists for satire, nor imprison anti-corruption protesters as terrorists, nor raid organisations defending women’s rights as though they were a threat to the state,” it added.