by Jeff Parker
Armed with a bullhorn, cartoon placards and the right to assemble, the Cartoonists Rights Network International, AAEC cartoonists (Pat Bagley, Drew Rogier-Chapman, Nik Kowsar, Jeff Parker, and Matt Wuerker), and local Amnesty International members, held a small protest in front of the Malaysian embassy in Washington, DC as a show of solidarity with Malaysian editorial cartoonist Zunar, one day before the AAEC convention kicked off.
Zunar, visiting for the 2012 convention, is the recipient of the 2011 CRNI Courage in Cartooning Award. He lives under constant threat and harassment for drawing cartoons critical of his country’s government and officials.
With chants like, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, censorship has got to go” and “Malaysia, you can’t outlaw a person’s right to speak and draw”, Zunar, along with the dozen or so other protesters, drew attention to Malaysia’s oppressive laws, such as the Sedition Act as well as the Printing Presses and Publication Act. Both laws have been cited to prosecute Zunar for his cartoons.
The Malaysian cartoonist used CRNI’s bullhorn (yes, CRNI has a bullhorn) to call out embassy officials in his native language. Two embassy staffers eventually came to the front gate to speak briefly with Zunar and CRNI’s Drew Rogier-Chapman.
Interesting to note, there was a large police presence at the embassy when protesters arrived. DC police were informed of a permitted cartoonist protest in front of the Malaysian embassy, and apparently heard “cartoons” and “Muslim embassy,” and went, “uh-oh.”
The 45-minute protest ended with no arrests or mortalities.