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July 26, 2011


Catching Up With Embattled Malaysian Cartoonist Zunar

The last few weeks have been tumultuous ones for the Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, best known by his pen name Zunar. A prolific cartoonist with a long string of book collections to his name, Zunar has over the last few years intermittently and now consistently struggled in heroic fashion with elements of his government over the release and dissemination of his work in book form.

image* On July 7, Zunar traveled to Florida and Washington, D.C. He received a Courage In Editorial Cartooning from the Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) while in St. Petersburg, giving a rousing speech (part one, part two) upon acceptance. You can read the text of the speech here, where Zunar compares receiving the honor in terms of his battle with censorship to Popeye being fed some spinach. I encourage everyone to read the text or watch the speech.

* In a sadly expected turn of events on July 14, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur upheld a ban placed by Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein on a pair of Zunar's more recent books, dismissing a motion for judicial review filed by the cartoonist and his lawyers. Judge Rohaya Yusuf went so far as to support the banning itself rather than just denying the petition, taking the position that the cartoons in question discussed sensitive matters and this all by itself makes the books an overall detriment to Malaysian society. Despite the discouragement potentially involved in such a thorough defeat, a resigned Zunar said after the proceedings he plans to appeal for as long as he's able.

A lawyer for a pair of Zunar's publishing partners also taking part in the filing claimed that the judge did not look over any of their submitted documents or even the books in question, relying solely on the minister's statement.

The books in question were Zunar's 1Funny Malaysia, collecting work from 2005 to 2009 and Perak Darul Kartun, which contained cartoons and prose from Zunar as well as material from other contributors. The second work was self-published in February 2010 by Zunar's own Sepakat Efektif Sdn Bhd. The books were banned in June 2010.

* Robert Russell of the CRNI states in strong terms in this editorial at a Malaysian news portal why the latest decision in particular is a travesty of justice and far more harmful to the nation than anything Zunar could put on paper.
 
posted 2:00 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
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