The Best Moments from Zunar’s Keynote

2018년 10월 07일 10시 10분

After two days of learning about such heavy topics as threats against the press and investigating war crimes, attendees at the Third Asian Investigative Journalism Conference burst into laughter during Malaysian cartoonist Zunar’s keynote address on October 6.

For the past 20 years, Zunar has used his cartoons to satirize those who abuse power in Malaysia, namely the kleptocratic President Najib, his overly indulgent wife Rosmah, and his cronies.

▲Zunar and host Sheila Coronel speak under cartoons Zunar drew for the conference. Photo by Kim Kayoung.

Zunar has been repeatedly persecuted and harassed for his work, but kept laughing throughout it all. He shared some of what he’s learned in his keynote and interview with host Sheila Coronel, Dean of Academic Affairs at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Here are five of his best insights:

1. “Being Neutral not Doing Anything Means that You Are Helping the Dictators, Very Very Dangerous.”

▲"How can I be neutral, even my pen has a stand." Photo of t-shirt for sale on Zunar’s website.

Zunar was very humorous throughout his whole speech but always had a core message crucial to keep in mind for those willing to make a meaningful change in the society, whether you are a cartoonist or a reporter. And so was his quote, “How can I be neutral… even my pen has a stand.”

By illustrating a situation of spotting a lady encountering a snatcher, Zunar points out that being neutral doesn’t stay as having no impact on neither side, but instead helps the villains. Corruption in Malaysia is very big, especially considering that Malaysia is a small country and Zunar doesn’t hesitate to point this out.

Even after being accused for nine sedition charges and total of 43 years in jail, Zunar speaks out.

I will keep drawing until the last drop of my ink. You can ban my book, you can ban my cartoon, but you can’t ban my mind.

2. “Talent Isn’t a Gift, It’s a Responsibility.”

Talent isn’t a gift, it’s a responsibility. We need to use it. We all have fear, we’re human, but when it comes to the question of what’s bigger, fear or responsibility, responsibility is bigger than fear.

Zunar believes he has a duty to use his cartooning talent to fight against kleptocracy in Malaysia and spend the next 20 years doing just that. There has been plenty for him to be afraid of: his office has been raided, his books have been banned, his art has been destroyed, and he has been arrested five times. Nevertheless, he has stayed focused on drawing and laughing throughout it all.

3. The Best Revolt is Laughter

▲Photo from Zunar’s website.

No dictator in the world can stand if you keep laughing at them, then one day they introduce laughter law, if you want to laugh you have to fill out permit.

Zunar expressed struggles to unveil what the people in power want to hide as an endless marathon. It is endless but there is still a winner- the one who keeps themselves in the track and moves forward. Zunar made a strong implication to dedicate his talents into moving forward in this marathon. As his last remarks Zunar added that as people in the audience were all on their own way to fight corruption, they would too, go on the marathon just as he did as a cartoonist.

4. “Freedom of Expression, Our Fundamental Right”

Zunar provided some powerful insight on the freedom of expression.

“Freedom of expression is our fundamental right. No government will just give it to you; you have to fight for it,” Zunar emphasized.

During the Q&A session, Zunar was asked about whether a line between the freedom of expression and decency exists, especially in the case of the Charlie Hebdo shooting. Being both a political cartoonist and Muslim, Zunar shared his thoughts about the notion of “crossing the line.”

“So many people discuss about lines and vulnerability -- I was also invited to the United Nations in Geneva to give a speech on this as a guest speaker,” he mentioned.

It’s very simple; I am not very happy, but it’s okay because they have the right to draw what they wish," Zunar said. "If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but don’t kill; If people don’t like my cartoons, that’s okay too, but don’t arrest me.

▲"The Power of Sapuman." Image from Zunar’s website.

5. You Will Never Walk Alone

When Coronel asked Zunar how he kept his spirits up, he answered that he had got support from other people and expressed his gratitude to the people who have supported him, especially when he was facing the charges.

A week before the police came to my doors, said I had to pay money under only one charge. But they came again to say that I now faced nine charges, and had to pay about nine times the original fine by the next day. I didn’t have that amount of money, so I posted my situation on the internet with my bank account for help. The next morning I woke up, and had the money.

Zunar further explained that he was able to get people to support him because he switched from being a political cartoonist to a cartoonist for the people.

Being a cartoonist for the people means that I am drawing from the people’s perspective, so I think that’s why more people support me.

▲The Story of Cartoonist Zunar." Image from Zunar’s website.

report : Emma Stiefel, Kim Jeemin, and Kim Kayoung