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Malaysian cartoonist targeted by govt asked to speak at UN

Barely a week after his office was raided and his books seized, satirist Zunar invited to attend forum in Geneva.


Barely a week after his office in Kuala Lumpur was raided and his books seized by authorities, cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque has received an invitation to speak at a forum at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 6.

Zulkiflee, also known as Zunar, said he would be speaking on "Defending Artistic Expression — Time For The UN To Act" at the Palais des Nations, the UN headquarters.

He said the forum will be held as part of the UN human rights council session.

"I am of course very proud. It proves that my struggle through my cartoons has been acknowledged. What more when the title of the forum, which addresses the freedom of artists, is also very important,” Zunar said. "The rights of artists should not be taken lightly. We do not want any more stigma that dictates what we can or cannot do as artists. The freedom of artistic expression should not be curbed.”

Zunar said he will reaffirm his stand that freedom of expression for artists, including cartoonists, was paramount and cannot be compromised.

"I will also touch the lack of commitment from the UN to protect artists, hence giving more power to corrupt regimes and extremist bigots to be more repressive toward artists."

Zunar's office was raided on January 28 while he was on a speaking tour in London. More than 150 of his books were confiscated in a raid conducted under Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Sedition Act and the Penal Code.

Before this, more than 500 copies of his books were also confiscated in two separate raids at his office by the authorities.

The action was extended to printers, vendors and bookstores around the country. Their premises were raided and they were warned not to print and sell Zunar's books.

On November 6 of last year, three of his assistants were arrested and taken to the police station for selling his latest cartoon books.

Several days later, the webmaster who has been managing Zunar's website and online bookstore was called by the police for investigation under the Sedition Act.

The police also asked the online payment gateway that handled his book transactions to disclose the list of customers who have purchased his books through official website,

Zunar was then investigated at Dang Wangi Police Station in Kuala Lumpur under the "Classified Crime Section" involving three different laws — Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Sedition Act and Penal Code, after two separate police reports were lodged against him.

This is the cartoonist second investigation under The Sedition Act — the first was in September 2010, when he was arrested and detained for two days.

Five of his books — "Perak Darul Kartun", "1 Funny Malaysia", and three volumes of "Isu Dalam Kartun" — were banned by the Home Ministry from 2009 to 2010.

Despite troubles at home, Zunar is hailed abroad.

He was conferred "Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award" by the United States-based Cartoonist Rights Network International (CRNI) in 2011.

He was also awarded the "Hellman Hammett" for being a defender of human rights by the Human Rights Watch.

CRNI executive director Robert Russell had criticized the government for ill-treating the cartoonist despite his talent, and accused it of going against human rights through its actions against Zunar.

"Thousands of journalists, human rights workers and loyal fans follow his work and yet your government oppresses his right to express," CRNI had stated in a letter to Prime Minister Najib Razak on January 31 that was also sent to other international human rights groups.

Source: The Malaysian Insider

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