Zunar: No government ban can stop my cartooning
18 Jun 2012

Although the political situation in Malaysia has been very tense since 1998, now the majority of Malaysians are beginning to show defiance against the ruling party Barisan Nasional, which has ruled the country for 54 years. People cannot accept the widespread corruption and high inflation with people living in economic hardship anymore.

The current Prime Minister, Najib Razak, is involved in the corruption scandal of the purchasing of Scorpene submarine. This is further scandalised by the murder of a Mongolian model by the name of Altantuya who was also involved in the submarine deal.

She was killed in Malaysia by those close to the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, the Barisan Nasional still stays in power from the bountiful of deceits throughout the election. Since all local newspapers, television and radio are controlled by the BN government, the people had to use alternative media such as the Facebook and Twitter to criticise and vent their frustrations.

As a political cartoonist, I use cartoons as a way to criticise the government. Not surprisingly, my cartoons are banned from being published in the government media. I produce cartoons for, my own website, and on Facebook and Twitter.

I also publish cartoon books, but my seven books are banned on the grounds that the contents were “detrimental to national security.” Printers who printed my books and stores that sold them are constantly threatened by the authorities.

In 2010, I was arrested under the Sedition Act when my then new book, Cartoon-O-Phobia, was about to be launched. I challenged the book-banning and the unlawful detention. For this, the Kuala Lumpur High Court will decide on the 27 June.

No matter, I continue to draw, with my work now being followed by a bunch of young cartoonists. As a result, the government-controlled Election Commission recently decided to ban the use of cartoons in the coming general election (to be called before the current term ends in March 2013).

The banning of cartoons during the election is comical and ludicrous. This is because cartooning is a legally-practised medium in Malaysia and therefore the Commission does not have the right to forbid its use. Moreover, this is contradicting the freedom of expression provided to all citizens in the Malaysian Constitution.

I call for the Commission to withdraw this rule or it will become another Malaysian product of jokes to the global community. Recently, Malaysia has become a laughing stock due to the action on cartoonists such as banning of comic books and the detention of cartoonists under the Criminal Act.

I would like to announce that I will be leading a group of cartoonists, the Kumpulan Kartunis Independen (KKI) and will be actively involved before and during the next election campaign.

We will be opening our own Cartoonist Operations Centre and will be moving as a group in a van while campaigning for the coming election.

Our focus is to expose fraud and corruption and misuse of public funds by the current government, such as Scorpene Scandal or the domineering of the PM’s wife. The message-laden cartoons will be distributed in various forms: brochures, posters, banners, videos, to name a few.

I am ready to face the consequences! And I will keep drawing until the last drop of my ink!

Zunar is the foremost Malaysian political cartoonist.  Last year, he has been conferred “2011 Courage In Editorial  Cartoon” award by Cartoonist Rights Network International in Washington

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The harassment of international journalists in China is becoming normalised

Index stands in support of the BBC's China correspondent John Sudworth who has fled to Taiwan with his family

01 Apr 2021

Photo: PublicDomainPictures

The awful actions of the Chinese government over the last month have dominated our news agenda. The collective actions of the government and their outliers have been designed to silence dissent, to intimidate and to bully.

They have repeatedly attacked core democratic principles both at home and abroad, undermining fair political participation. They’ve arrested democracy activists, changed the law to restrict electoral access to the Hong Kong Legislative Council to sanctioned ‘patriots’ otherwise known as the allies and friends of the Government of China.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has also sanctioned British parliamentarians and activists for daring to speak out about the acts of genocide, happening as I type, in Xinjiang province against the Uighur community. The CCP chose not to target members of the British Government nor key businesses with sanctions.

Instead, it sent a political message and targeted backbench Conservative MPs, two think-tanks and an academic, those who had been most vocal in exposing the actions of the CCP in both Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. This was a move intended to silence criticism not impose economic sanction, a clumsy and ineffectual effort to restrict free speech outside China’s borders.

This week, these aggressive actions by the CCP culminated with yet another attack on media freedom when the BBC’s lead China correspondent, John Sudworth, was forced to relocate with his family from Beijing to Taiwan after a campaign of state-sanctioned threats and intimidation. Sudworth and his wife, a fellow journalist for the Irish RTE, Yvonne Murray, were faced with no other option than to leave after months of personal attacks in Chinese state media and by Chinese government officials. They will both continue to report on events in China from Taiwan.

The harassment of international journalists in China (and now in Hong Kong) is becoming normalised, with dozens of journalists having to leave in recent months; threats of visas being withheld are now commonplace. This is simply unacceptable.

China seeks to be a loud voice on the global stage – they need to live up to their commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They need to remember they are signatories to Article 19 and that media freedom and free expression are protected rights.

Index stands in solidarity with John and Yvonne.

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