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SUPPRESSION CONTINUES ABROAD

Zunar photoIran is scarcely the only country that attacks cartoonists and/or artists for expressing dissent. Malaysian political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, also known as “Zunar,” is facing nine simultaneous charges over his tweets on 10 February criticizing the judiciary after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was jailed on sodomy charges. Should he be found guilty at trial, he could face up to 43 years in prison. He has been charged under the Sedition Act, a colonial-era law that clamps down on freedom of expression under the guise of protecting national security and deterring racial or religious unrest.

Zunar’s trial, scheduled for July, was postponed pending a decision that the country’s Sedition Act is valid. The Sedition Act was instituted by British colonial rulers in 1948, nine years before Malaysia became fully independent. Last year the Act was challenged in court by a law professor also charged with sedition, who argued it should be invalid since it predates independence and the Malaysian constitution. But a federal court felt differently. The trial date is set for early November.

Zunar has been repeatedly harassed by his country’s authorities. Amnesty International reports: “Zunar has already been detained twice under this law — in September 2010 for two days, and on 10 February for three days. Five of his cartoon books have been banned by the Malaysian government pm the grounds that their content is ‘detrimental to public order.’ His office in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, has been raided several times and thousands of his cartoon books have been confiscated.

Zunar

“The printers, vendors and bookshops around the country that carry his publications have also been harassed. Their premises have been raided and they have been warned by the Malaysian authorities not to print or carry any of Zunar’s books, or their license will be revoked. Three of Zunar’s assistants were arrested in October 2014 and taken to the police station for selling his books. The webmaster who manages Zunar’s website and online bookshop has also been called in by police for questioning. The online gateway that handled payments for Zunar’s books online was forced to disclose to the police the list of customers who had purchased books through Zunar’s official website, www.zunar.my.

Meanwhile, Zunar has received one of this year’s International Press Freedom Awards from the Committee to Protect Journalists, which recognizes the cartoonist for raising a moral and unsilenced voice through his cartoons, reported Michael Cavna at ComicRiffs. Zunar told Cavna that when a cartoonist faces a moral crisis, “you need to stand and fight. You need to carry the people’s voice through your cartoon.”

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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