In the final weeks before his trial on nine counts of sedition is set to begin in Malaysia, cartoonist Zunar will embark on a whirlwind European tour with several speaking engagements from Oct. 26 to Nov. 4. Although the events center on London, he will also make short forays to Cambridge and Zurich. Even after his departure, some of his cartoons will remain on exhibit at London’s British Cartoon Museum for “a few months,” he said on his website.
Zunar could face up to 43 years in prison for the sedition charges, which stem fromstatements that he made on Twitter in February following the sentencing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on a trumped-up sodomy charge. The cartoonist hinted that the judiciary in that trial had been subject to political pressure or bribery, observing that “the lackeys in black robes are proud of their sentences. The reward from political masters must be plenty.” He then exchanged Twitter barbs — and a cartoon — with Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar as officers were en route to arrest him.
Seven of Zunar’s 18 cartoon collections are officially banned in Malaysia, and authorities have systematically attempted to intimidate his customers and anyone who does business with him, such as printers, retailers, his webmaster, and the company that processes online payments for his books. Free speech advocates in England and Zurich should certainly seize this opportunity to see him in person, because this may be his last international trip for a very long time.
Here is the schedule for Zunar’s “Cartoon-o-Phobia” tour:
- Oct. 25, Zurich, Switzerland: Q&A session on the state of politics and freedom of expression in Malaysia, 12-4 p.m., Limmattalstrasse 168/170
- Oct. 26, Cambridge, England: Talk on “The Art of Fighting Through Cartoons” and slideshow of Zunar cartoons, 5-7 p.m., Sidgwick Hall, Newnham College
- Oct. 29, London: “Fight Through Cartoon, Even My Pen Has A Stand,” forum with UK cartoonist Martin Rowson, 6-8:30 p.m., Amnesty International’s Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard
- Oct. 31, London: “Cartoon-O-Phobia: Freedom Through Activism,” 3-5 p.m., room 116, SOAS, University of London Main Building, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.