On 26 November 2016, Malaysian cartoonist Zunar was arrested under the Sedition Act, a day after UMNO Youth members displayed violent behaviour at his exhibition in KOMTAR. The following is George Town Literary Festival’s official statement in regards to the incident.
THE George Town Literary Festival learned with deep regret of the arrest of Zunar, the renowned political cartoonist who is a participant in this year’s festival. Zunar was detained under the Sedition Act this afternoon.
“The Festival condemns this act of repression which is contrary to the spirit of free speech and expression, a central premise of the festival,” said Festival Director Bernice Chauly.
National Laureate Muhammad Haji Salleh said, “Zunar is an artist and a conscience of society. He was painting on our behalf and is committed to free speech and expression for Malaysians. Only through free speech can we be a nation that is truly democratic.”
“Levels of repression are reaching dangerous levels in Malaysia. The fact that Zunar’s arrest happened at the George Town Literary Festival, with dozens of international writers and artists, only underscores the government’s disregard for freedom of expression,” said Michael Vatikiotis, writer at the festival.
Bukit Bendera Member of Parliament and Penang Institute Executive Director Zairil Khir Johari said, “The George Town Literary Festival is one of our country’s foremost international literary events, and it is sad and disappointing to have it marred in this way. Yesterday, a group of hooligans violently harrassed Zunar at his exhibition in Komtar, and today, instead of arresting his attackers, the authorities have charged Zunar with sedition.”
The Festival Organisers view this incident with great concern and appeal to the authorities to immediately release Zunar so he can continue participating and refrain from further disruption of the festival, which involves 60 Writers from 20 different countries.
George Town Literary Festival runs from 25 – 27 November 2016. Make sure to follow the festival on Facebook and check out social media postings via the hashtags #GTLF and #GTLF2016 to keep up to date! Featured image obtained via ABC.