Cartoonist Zunar Loses Appeal Over Wrongful Arrest

Zunar cartoon

(c) Zunar

A Malaysian political cartoonist who was arrested and charged with sedition just before the publication of his 2010 book has lost an appeal of his suit against the government for wrongful arrest. Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known by the pen name Zunar, recently reported on his blog that the Appeals Court found that his arrest was lawful — even though both courts agreed that the seizure of 66 copies of his book Cartoon-O-Phobia was without cause and he should be compensated for them.

In his blog post, Zunar highlights the absurdity of the decision:

To me, today’s judgement, as the one before, is unacceptable and comical. How could the judges rule that my detention was legal but the confiscation of my book was illegal?

Mind you, I am the author of the book. If the book is okay and not banned, why was I, the author, arrested and detained? What offence did I commit?

According to the Appeals Court, the police had “cause for suspicion that the book is seditious,” but Zunar points out that they could have simply inspected the content before arresting the author. Convinced that his arrest and the judicial rulings are “part of the government’s machinations to stop me from drawing cartoons to expose their corruption and wrong-doing,” he vows to fight on and not be silenced:

I will give three copies of my latest cartoon book, The Pirates of the Carry-BN, to the three [Appeals Court] judges as a present and hope they will go through them to understand what political cartooning is all about. Because if judges don’t understand the work of cartoonists, how can cartoonists get justice?

All seven of Zunar’s books prior to Cartoon-O-Phobia were banned in his native country, but many Malaysians have persisted in viewing and sharing his cartoons via social media. In 2011, he received the Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning from Cartoonists Rights Network International. On CRNI’s website, he said that he will appeal the latest decision to Malaysia’s Federal Court, although “I do not expect to win against this government.”

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Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.