Posted on September 15, 2015 | No Comments
The personal slogan of Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, a Malaysian cartoonist who is better known by his penname “Zunar,” is: “How can I be neutral? Even my pen has a stand.”
Zunar is best known for his provocative cartoons that lampoon issues of high-level abuse of government power and corruption. His portraits are published both in books and on the Malaysiakini news website, one of the country’s few independent news publications. Malaysian police and authorities have claimed on several occasions that Zunar’s cartoons are “detrimental to public order” and run afoul of the country’s sedition law.
The latest legal threat against Zunar comes amid a government crackdown on dissent, a heavy-handed response to the long-ruling United Malays National Organization’s waning popularity and legitimacy, a theme that Zunar’s cartoons have frequently portrayed. The cartoonist has been temporarily detained twice–in 2010 and 2015–on accusations of sedition in relation to his cartoons. At least five of his cartoon books, compilations of original contents and his work previously published online, have been banned or confiscated by authorities. His Kuala Lumpur-based office and those of the printers who produce his volumes have been raided several times.
Despite these threats, Zunar continues to draw, challenging the same forces that seek to silence him. He currently faces nine counts of sedition and up to 43 years in jail in connection with nine critical tweets, including one with an embedded cartoon portrait of Prime Minister Najib Razak acting as a court judge, that he posted on February 10, 2015, in connection with a court decision to jail the country’s main opposition leader on sodomy charges. Zunar’s sedition trial is scheduled for late 2015.
Zunar is the first full-time cartoonist to receive the Committee to Project Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award. While the attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015 showed the risks some cartoonists face in reprisal for their work, the legal harassment Zunar endures is indicative of the type of threats that outspoken satirists contend with around the world. CPJ highlighted these threats in its 2015 report, “Drawing the Line,” in which Zunar’s cartoons and case were featured.
In 2011 and 2015, Human Rights Watch honored Zunar with its Hellman/Hammett Award. In 2011, he was also the recipient of the “Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award” by the Washington-based Cartoonist Rights Network International.
Image and text reposted from CPJ.org