Wednesday, May 18, 2016

MALAYSIA’S DEPUTY PM SUGGESTS POLICE ACTION AGAINST ZUNAR FOR EXHIBITING CARTOONS IN GENEVA

Zunar_Plantu_-Kofi-Annan

“It is a duty of a cartoonist to expose corruption and injustices” — Zunar

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi says he will leave it to the police to decide whether to take action against Zunarfor exhibiting cartoons critical of Prime Minister Najib Razak in Geneva.  Last week Malaysia’s Communications Minister Salleh Said Keruak said that Zunar’s cartoons targeting the scandal-plaguedadministration of Prime Minister Najib could be considered“economic sabotage.”  Zunar was asked to exhibit his cartoons alongside those of East-African cartoonist Gado after the two cartoonists were presented the 2016 Cartooning For Peace Award by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.  The award is presented to cartoonists for “courage, talent and commitment to the values of peace and tolerance — as well as for their fight for freedom of expression.”
Zunar issued a press release in response to the Malaysian government’s new threats:
“For me, these are new plots by the authorities to silence me. For years, I have been subjected to all sorts of harassments and intimidations involving three laws — the Sedition Act, Printing & Presses Act and The Penal Code.
“I was arrested and put behind bars twice and am now facing nine charges under the Sedition Act and facing possible 43 years jail if found guilty.
“Seven of my books have been banned, my office was raided several times, the bookstores and printers were also raided.  Thousands of books and original drawings and printing plates were confiscated, my sale assistants were arrested and so was my online sale manager.
“I would like to reiterate that: talent is not a gift, but a responsibility.  It is a duty of a cartoonist to expose corruption and injustices.  Freedom of expression is not a prerogative of the government, but it is my right!”

Zunar-with-cartoon-exhibition-in-Geneva
Zunar is past recipient of CRNI’s Courage In Editorial Cartooning Award, the International Press Freedom Award, and has twice been presented the Human Rights Watch Hellman/Hammett Award.
The cartoons on display in Geneva exhibition, including the work of other Cartooning For Peace members, can be seen here.  An educational supplement to the exhibition catalogue can be seen here.
A highly placed Malaysian government official has lashed out at the cartoonistZunar for exhibiting his political cartoons in Geneva.  Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruacsuggested that criticizing Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in a foreign country could be seen as an act of “economic sabotage,” and is part of a plan to “topple the prime minister.”  Zunar responded to the notion of a cartoon coup d’etat: If a cartoonist can topple the PM, that is not illegal, but hilarious.
In response to Salleh’s statement that “It is not wrong to have differences in opinion, or to disagree with the government, but why involve other countries,” Zunar reminded the minister that his books of cartoons disagreeing with the government have been banned and confiscated in Malaysia since 2010, and he and his employees jailed and harassed.  Zunar is currently facing sedition charges for a series of tweets. If found guilty, the cartoonist faces up to 43 years in prison.
Along with Zunar’s work, the Geneva exhibition includes cartoons by Kenya-based cartoonist Gado and members of Cartooning For Peace. The exhibition was opened after Zunar and Gado were awarded the 2016 Cartooning For Peace Prize for showing courage in their fight for freedom of expression. The exhibition will run through June 4.
In an open post, Zunar suggested that Minister Salleh might better understand his cartoons by buying the cartoonist’s latest book. “If you are still not clear about my cartoons, you can come to my new book launch [for] WASABI (Wa Sapu Billion) on this Saturday (14th May) and buy one.  No, you cannot buy it at bookstores, because your ‘democratic’ government has banned it. “

Zunar is past recipient of CRNI’s Courage In Editorial Cartooning Award, the International Press Freedom Award, and has twice been presented the Human Rights Watch Hellman/Hammett Award.

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