Malaysian political cartoonist speaks about censorship

Sawyer Smith


Political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, also known as Zunar, spoke about Malaysian media censorship on Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. at Gary Ransdell Hall auditorium. He persists drawing despite numerous attempts on the part of the Malaysian government to stop his production.

“My cartoons are not allowed in any newspapers in Malaysia,” Zunar said. He added later, “I told police, ‘I will draw until the last drop of my ink. If you want to stop me, you must stop the ink supply coming to Malaysia.’”

Zunar’s actions included criticizing the Malaysian government and illustrated the Prime Minister’s wife, which are both illegal actions in Malaysia.

The Center for Asian Democracy at the University of Louisville and The Asia Institute Crane House sponsored the event. Crane House Communications and Membership Coordinator Christy Eubank said she values the impact that Zunar’s work can have on journalism students.

“He shows a real representation of what journalism should be and could be,” Eubank said. “Americans forget how fortunate we are for our rights.”

Loup Langton, director of the School of Broadcasting & Journalism, also wanted the speech to widen students’ views about international media relations.

“[Zunar] is someone who not only will talk about another culture, but also how laws can impact freedom of speech,” Langton said.

Zunar faced censorship early in his career. He first published a cartoon at age 12, and he was first banned from publication by age 17. Defiance has always been part of his character, he said.  

One of Zunar’s cartoons reads, “How can I be neutral? Even my pen has a stand.”

The Malaysian government has detained Zunar, tried him for sedition and banned seven of his books. He hopes to continue gaining supporters and eventually change the law, he said.

“There is no room to be neutral when you face a moral crisis,” Zunar said. “Knowing the government is so corrupt and not taking a stand means that you are helping the government stay corrupt.”