Malaysian cartoonist Zunar speaks out
The Malaysian cartoonist Zunar describes his government’s attempts to silence him, and proclaims his determination not to be silenced, in a column on the news site Malaysiakini. Last week, a court dismissed his appeal of his 2010 arrest, although he was never formally charged, and another court ruled that the government had to return the books confiscated from him. Zunar says he has another appeal before the court and doesn’t expect to prevail in that one either.
The trouble started in 2009 with the publication of his comic Gedung Kartun (Cartoon-o-Phobia). Before it could be distributed, government officials raided his office and confiscated 400 copies of the book; the next day they raided his printer and warned them not to print any more of Zunar’s books, threatening to revoke their printing license.
At this point, when the government saw that I still produced cartoons, they moved to the next step by banning another five of my cartoon books on the grounds that “the contents are detrimental to public order”.
The agreement with one of the major distribution agency which I had signed a week before had to be cancelled.
The government has succeeded in putting fear to both ends of the support chain of my product – the printers and the vendors. The inability to sell the books has cost me to be tens of thousands of ringgit in debt. I had to lay off all my staff.
In a simpler word, the government may say this: “You can continue to draw cartoons, but if nobody dares to print and to sell, what are you going to do?”
That’s not stopping Zunar, who’s launching his new book Pirates of the Carry-BN on Nov. 16; he blacked out the printer’s name to protect the printer and is depending on online sales, because he can’t find a distributor. And he has rejected advice to adopt a softer tone; as he writes in his column, “We cannot watch in silence and condone all corruptions, injustice and oppression. How can I be neutral, Even My Pen Has A Stand!”