THOUGH he faces sanctions in his home country, Malaysian satirical cartoonist Zunar was recognized for his work when the Cartooning for Peace Swiss Foundation awarded him the 2016 International Editorial Cartoons Prize on Tuesday.
Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee Anwar Ul-Haque, received the award from Honorary President of the Swiss Foundation and former United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan, alongside Kenyan caricaturist Gado.
In his speech, Annan said that the two recipients of this year’s award had helped to remind the public about how fragile liberty is in Africa and Asia, as well as in other regions of the world.
“Through their commitment towards open and transparent societies, Gado and Zunar, who have received threats in their countries of origin and can no longer practice their profession, confront us with our responsibility to preserve freedom of expression and act in order to support the combat of those who cannot express themselves through their art,” he said.
Cartooning for Peace Swiss Foundation vice president, Patrick Chappatte, concurred and said that the prize was meant to amplify the voices for democracy and justice.
The prize is awarded every two years on World Press Freedom Day, rewarding cartoonists for their courage, talent and commitment to the values of peace and tolerance, and also in support of their fight for freedom of expression.
Zunar’s work is currently on display in an open-air exhibition along the banks of Lake Geneva, which will be up until June 4.
Honored to be one of few cartoonists to be selected to exhibit works alongside Plantu, Gado at Lake Lac Leman,Geneva pic.twitter.com/Qd87zqaWiT
— Zunar Cartoonist (@zunarkartunis) May 2, 2016
Last month, the Malaysian High Court ruled against Zunar’s challenge of the Sedition Act, meaning that he still faces nine counts of seditious speech for a series of tweets posted in 2015 criticizing the jailing of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges.
Zunar, 53, could be imprisoned for up to 43 years if a court finds him guilty.
Previously, the government banned five of his cartoon books on the grounds that their contents are “detrimental to public order.”
But Zunar isn’t the only Malaysian using art to express displeasure with the government – graphic artist Fahmi Reza has also become a target for the authorities for his “seditious” depiction of Prime Minister Najib Razak as a sinister-looking clown.
According to Amnesty International, since the 2013 general election, which saw ruling coalition Barisan Nasional win by a narrow margin, around 170 sedition cases have been brought forth despite Najib’s earlier promise to repeal the law.
Last year alone, at least 91 individuals were arrested, charged or investigated under the Sedition Law – nearly five times as many as during the law’s first 50 years of existence.