Malaysian cartoonist Zunar is speaking about his career, his art and his free-speech activism at a number of venues in London and at a Q&A in Zurich prior to his upcoming trial on sedition charges in Putrajaya. His trial is scheduled to begin on November 6. A Malaysian federal court decision in October ruled that the Sedition Act under which the cartoonist was charged — brought in by the British to keep a lid on anti-colonial sentiment in a pre-independent Malaysia — was constitutional. According to Index on Freedom, “more than 200 activists – students, lecturers, lawyers, writers, religious activists, opposition leaders and cartoonist – have either been arrested, detained, investigated or charged [under the Sedition Act] since last year.”
Zunar’s charges stem from twitter posts he made following the verdict rendered against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. If found guilty, the internationally reknown cartoonist could face 43 years in prison. Index on Censorship, Amnesty International and Cartoonists Rights Network have called for the government of Malaysia to guarantee Zunar’s freedom of expression and drop all charges against him.
Zunar has faced years of censorship and government-imposed hurdles in getting his work seen in his homeland. His books have been banned, his website managers intimidated, his printers harassed and, most recently, his Facebook accounts apparently hacked. Just prior to his trip to Britain, a political cartoon Zunar posted to three Facebook pages mysteriously disappeared and the cartoon could not be reposted.
During his “London tour,” Zunar will lead a cartoon protest at Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner and speak about the power of cartoons at Amnesty International UK’s Human Rights Action Centre. Zunar will also be on hand for the opening of a Cartoon Museum exhibition in which he is participating.
Zunar writes: “I hope this exhibition and tour will create awareness on the real state of affairs and the serious limitations that exist in Malaysia where freedom of expression, freedom of the media and human rights are concerned.”