Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ul Haque, who goes by Zunar, has fiercely resisted state censorship, deployed creative strategies to keep his cartoons alive for the Malaysian public, and courageously fought all the institutions of state power that have worked against him.
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) presented its annual Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning to Zunar on July 7 at a ceremony in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Zunar has been intensely watched by the Malaysian government and subject to draconian forms of censorship for close to 10 years. In 2010, he was arrested and detained and all the newspapers in the country were ordered to not publish his cartoons. Zunar fought back by publishing five volumes of his cartoons in a booklet format so that the Malaysian public could view them.
But the books have been seized by the government and publishers have been told to not publish Zunar’s work. In addition, his office is constantly raided, dozens of his books have been confiscated by police, and vendors are told not to sell his books or they could face court charges. His movement is monitored and his phone is tapped.
In his acceptance speech, he said his cartoons have covered “corrupt practice by the Prime Minister and his cabinet members, the murder of the Mongolian model by the name of Altantuya, the conspiracy against Anwar Ibrahim, the domination of the Prime Minister’s wife, the Scorpene submarine scandal, and waste of public funds.”
Zunar explained that the government controls all the newspapers and television and radio broadcasts, leaving no room for dissent. He said:”My aim is to use cartoons as a weapon to fight corruption and abuse of power by the Malaysian government. Through my cartoons, I highlight very important issues, which have not been reported in the government-controlled media.”
He urged everyone to fight injustice.
“My philosophy is clear: in order to make an impact, we must do it to the fullest. My method is to criticize the most powerful leaders in the hardest ways. Why pinch when you can punch!”