By JACOB BLAIR
Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, stopped by Eastern on Thursday afternoon as part of his stay at the University of Louisville’s Center for Asian Democracy.
Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, referred to as Zunar, had his first cartoon published in a children’s magazine when he was 12 years old. It was not a politically based cartoon. In September 2010 he was arrested for sedition by the Malaysian government on the eve of the publication of his Cartoon-o-phobia collection. Earlier that June, the government banned the publication of 1 Funny Malaysia, another book filled with his cartoons.
“Ten police men came and detained me,” Zunar said.
The judge told the police officers they had to read the book that was supposed to be published the day after Zunar was arrested to determine if there really was seditious content.
He said the government in Malaysia is a totally different system along with a totally different culture and totally different kind of freedom.
“We don’t have a press freedom,” Zunar said. “Every newspaper, TV station and radio station is controlled by the government.”
The media industry isn’t government-owned, but Zunar said they issue the licenses that last for one year. Newspapers are only allowed to publish the government’s point-of-view and every version of the story has to have the same headline, Zunar said.
Because of his drawings criticizing the government, Zunar’s work cannot be printed in newspapers or the newspapers could lose their licenses. He said he uses the Internet instead to get his work distributed.
He held up one of his books, Pirates of the Carry-BN, and showed that the printer’s name was redacted so the government doesn’t prosecute the printer, he said.
He said he fights the government through his cartoon artistry skills.
“A government of the cartoon by the cartoon for the cartoon,” Zunar said.
Zunar said he always takes a stance with his cartoons.
“How can I be neutral?” Zunar asked. “Even my pen has a stand.”
He said the Malaysian government is corrupted as a single political party has had control for 57 years.
“We are the ones who pay for the corruption,” Zunar said as he showed a political cartoon with the prime minister taking government taxes.
One of his signature drawing characteristics is the wife of Malaysia’s prime minister having big hair. Zunar said she is a big spender and “wants to control everything.”
He said even though he illustrates cartoons about corruption, the drawings are not about attacking people directly.
“This is about the system in the country,” Zunar said. “It’s not about the person.”
His Facebook page has more than 60,000 likes and he has an online presence at www.zunar.my. An audience member asked him during the lecture if he had Internet access.
“We are not that bad, you know!” Zunar replied.
He said he doesn’t plan to stop cartooning anytime soon.
“I tell them I will keep drawing until the last drop of ink falls,” Zunar said.
He said a change is necessary but it may not happen during his lifetime.
“We may not see the changing of government in my life,” Zunar said. “It’s for future generations. For my son. For my child. We need to give a gift to the future generation.”