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The Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar is in trouble with the law again. Police in the state of Kedah have summoned him to appear before them on May 7 (the original date, given in the linked article, was May 2 but it was rescheduled) for violating the country’s sedition law, a much-criticized relic of its colonial past, with a cartoon criticizing the Kedah state minister’s decision to cancel the traditional Tamil Hindu festival of Thaipusam.
Zunar got into lots of trouble during the tenure of Prime Minister Najib Razak, whom he mocked endlessly for his corruption; Razak was not amused and his government repeatedly raided Zunar’s studio, confiscated his books, banned him from traveling, and brought charges against him that could have led to lengthy prison sentences. The pressure eased once Najib was voted out.
Ironically, Zunar’s latest skirmish coincides with World Press Freedom Day, which was Monday; several national and international groups have criticized the Malaysian government for its repressive stance.
Zunar sues his persecutors, Bosch Fawstin is booted (temporarily) from Twitter, and the Best of the Year lists keep rolling in.
Legal: A Malaysian High Court judge has set aside five days in April to hear the cartoonist Zunar’s lawsuit against the Inspector-General of Police and 19 other defendants. Zunar, who has been charged with sedition and is currently prohibited from leaving the country, is suing for damages and wrongful arrest. In December 2016, police stormed the venue where a “Tea with Zunar” event was about to take place and arrested the cartoonist and several other people; they also confiscated books and T-shirts. In the lawsuit, Zunar is asking for monetary damages for wrongful arrest, the return of his merchandise, and a declaration that the defendants had violated his rights.
Twitter: Cartoonist Bosch Fawstin was suspended from Twitter for “hate speech” after one of his Tweets was reported by another user. At first Twitter refused to tell him why, but then they told him his account would be unlocked if he deleted a Tweet reply that read “@NyaDnart1 There are degrees. Muslims who follow in Mohammad’s footsteps mass murder. Christians who follow in Jesus’s footsteps?” They subsequently reinstated his account with a statement that it had accidentally been caught in a spam filter.
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Legal: Political cartoonist Ted Rall has lost another round in his lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times. Rall, a former freelancer for the Times sued the paper for defamation and wrongful termination last year, after the editors determined a blog post he had written about his treatment by the Los Angeles Police Department was inaccurate. The Times dropped Rall as a freelancer and published an editor’s note stating that the blog post was incorrect. Last week, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joseph Kalin ruled that because Rall was a public figure, the editor’s note and any other articles about him are protected by the First Amendment. Consequently, Kalin granted the motion by the Times’s parent company, Tribune Media, to strike the complaint.
Legal: The Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar (pictured above) has filed a lawsuit against the government and the police, including 16 individual police officers, for seizing his books and T-shirts at a fund-raising event last December. Zunar had organized a “Tea with Zunar” event at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur on December 17, but before it began, police arrested the cartoonist and an assistant who was in charge of sales, and they confiscated 1,187 books and 103 T-shirts. Zunar and his assistant were released, but the merchandise was not returned. In the suit, Zunar alleges that the arrest and seizure were illegal and that some booksellers will no longer carry his books because of the fear they will be confiscated.
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Someone has defaced a mural of the Malaysian cartoonist Zunar—but the artist who created the mural is OK with that. “I don’t see it as ruined but as a response, and it does not matter to me who is responding,” said Bibichun, the artist. “It’s in the public domain and it’s for members of the public to consume in their own way.” The mural depicted Zunar with his mouth covered by the flag of UMNO, the dominant political party of Malaysia (and therefore a frequent target of Zunar’s cartoon). Recently, an unknown man painted the flag black. “The piece was a response to the suppression of Zunar’s exhibition at the Penang Literary Festival last year,” said Bibichun. “I’m surprised it took Umno supporters such a long time to respond.” Zunar recently canceled a planned exhibit of his work out of concern that it, too, would be attacked.