A cartoonist, whose motto is ‘if you can’t beat them, laugh at them’, is facing 43 years in prison for sedition. His alleged crime is suggesting in his drawings that Malaysia’s judiciary might not be independent of the government and the prime minister, Najib Rezak, might not be independent of his wife, Rosmah Mansoor, the Independent reported. He also lampooned the government over the jailing of the Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges, according to Amnesty International.
Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, who draws under the name Zunar about issues such as corruption and freedom of expression, is being prosecuted under the colonial-era Sedition Act, which Amnesty says is ‘often used to clampdown on freedom of expression in the guise of protecting national security and deterring racial or religious unrest’. He is no stranger to the unwelcome attentions of the Malaysian security services. According to his own website, his home was raided in 2009 after he launched a political comic, Gedung Kartun, which was subsequently banned. The magazine’s printers were then threatened with losing their licence if they didn’t drop Zunar. A year later six of his comic books were banned on the grounds that they might incite the people to revolt.
Zunar’s prosecution is testament to the power of the pen in standing up to authoritarian regimes such as Malaysia. It is also the height of absurdity. Najib, who is up to his neck in allegations of corruption surrounding the debt-laden 1MDB, would do well not to make a martyr of a cartoonist.