Zunar is asked to serve three years in prison for this joke.
In Malaysia there is a cartoonist who is eternally threatened by the government. His name is Zulkiflee Anwar Alhaque AKA “Zunar“. They want to imprison him again for a cartoon in which he criticises a politician. On 25 January, he was once again charged with sedition, the state’s catch-all tool for silencing any critical voice.
He now faces up to three years in prison for this cartoon published on 25 January on his social media accounts criticising Kedah state chief Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor‘s decision to cancel this year’s Thaipusam, a Hindu religious festival usually celebrated by the Tamil community on 28 January.
The cartoon shows the ruler striking with a butcher knife (with the words “No Thaipusam”) a table around which representatives of Malaysia’s various ethnic groups were seated. A text about them reads: “The inhabitants of Kedah lived in peace until he came“.
The legal proceedings against Zunar were initiated by the chairman of the youth wing of the Malaysian Islamic Party, who said that the defamation proceedings against the cartoonist were intended to “teach a lesson to all those who think that everything can be arbitrarily politicised“.
The complaint accuses Zunar of violating the 1948 Sedition Act (it is high time it was revised), which criminalises “tending to provoke hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any ruler or any government”.
This persecution and repression against Zunar will go down in history because of the state’s obsession with imprisoning him, so to give you an idea, here’s a quick review.
Timeline of the Zunar case
He was questioned for 45 minutes about his cartoon book “Komplot Penjarakan Anwar” for which he was being investigated on charges of sedition.
In 2015 he was charged with 9 charges of sedition, faced up to 43 years in prison.
On 28 January 2015, while he was at a conference in London, police raided his office and confiscated more than 150 books.
14 February 2015. Hundreds of copies of his book Ros in Kangkong in Land are confiscated by police directly from the publisher’s truck as he was transporting them to the venue of his launch.
17 October 2016 – Zunar is held at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, government banned from leaving the country.
In November 2016, he was again targeted by the courts for tweeting criticisms of the 2015 imprisonment of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy.
On Friday 26 November 2016, an exhibition by the author was cancelled due to the attack by pro-government protesters.
A day after this incident , Zunar was arrested again under the sedition law and released on bail shortly after.
17 December 2016. He was arrested again along with four other people and 1000 copies of his books were confiscated. He was released on bail hours later.
1 April 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that Zunar would receive compensation of 18,000 Ringit (about €3,800) for special damages for the seizure of 66 books and a painting. The court also ordered that his books be returned to him.
August 2017, Zunar sued police for unlawful detention and seizure of his books and T-shirts.
In May 2018, after almost two years of being unable to leave Malaysia, Zunar succeeded in having the travel ban lifted following the change of government in the country. On 30 July of that year, he was acquitted of all charges.
Humour in troubles, a collection of cases (III)
Cases of cartoonists who have had problems of some importance because of their cartoons or satirical illustrations. There are also some stories of other people who, without being cartoonists, have got into trouble for sharing them.