September 16, 2015

Cartoonist Zunar, who has had several runs in with the government over his provocative cartoons on corruption and abuse of power, has won the prestigious International Press Freedom Award by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Zunar said the award was timely amid a crackdown on dissent in Malaysia. “I am honoured and I think the award is timely as I am facing a huge challenge from the Malaysian government with nine sedition charges.

“This is a very strong support by the international community for me to continue the fight through cartoons agaisnt a corrupt and repressive government,” he said. Zunar added that through the award, a message was being sent that the international community is watching Malaysia closely. “The award is not for me but for all concerned Malaysians for are fighting for total reform in the country,” he said. According to CPJ’s website, Zunar is the first full-time cartoonist to receive the award. “While the attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015 showed the risks some cartoonists face in reprisal for their work, the legal harassment Zunar endures is indicative of the type of threats that outspoken satirists contend with around the world.

“Despite these threats, Zunar continues to draw, challenging the same forces that seek to silence him,” it said. Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, has had several of his comic books critical of the government banned and confiscated. Zunar was detained by police twice, in 2010 and 2015, on grounds of sedition. He is currently facing nine sedition charges and up to 43 years in jail for his critical comments over the jailing of then opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in February. One of the Twitter posting included a cartoon of Najib acting as a court judge.

His latest book is titled ‘Sapuman: Man of Steal‘ which poked fun of the scandals plaguing Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. Zunar’s cartoons are also published on independent news portal Malaysiakini. He is the second Malaysian to win the award. Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan was awarded the prize in 2000.

Source: Malaysiakini