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Malaysian Cartoonist in Free Speech Battle to Speak at University of Louisville

Elisa Haberer

Here's the thing about democracies—they're not always entirely democratic, said Jason Abbott, director of the Center for Asian Democracy at the University of Louisville.The center's annual guest speaker was chosen largely to spotlight the point.Zulkiflee Anwar Haque—commonly known as Zunar—is a Malaysian political cartoonist and government critic. In 2010, his offices were raided and he was arrested on sedition charges. Free Malaysia Today reported:  Cartoon-O-Phobia features a collection of his cartoons, which appeared in the Malaysiakini news portal from December 2009 to September 2010. Previously the Home Ministry has banned his other books -- “1 Funny Malaysia", "Perak Darul Kartun" and "Isu Dalam Kartun" -- because “the contents were detrimental to public order and could influence the people to revolt against the leaders and government”.“There are a whole group of countries where despite ostensibly appearing to be democracies, there nevertheless an unlevel playing field where the government does silence its critics," Abbott said. "It uses various legal and security mechanism to really crack down on voices that it doesn’t want to hear.”You can check out Zunar's comic here.

Abbott also noted that people tend to think of serious activists as the victims of political oppression. But, he notes, satirists have a large role in political criticism.“In the struggle for democratic freedoms and norms, it’s not only activists and protesters whose voices matter, but also that of comedians and satirists and cartoonists," Abbott said.Zunar will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Brown & Williamson Club at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. It's free, but the Center for Asian Democracy asks people who plan to attend to registerhere.

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.

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