Forum on Cartoon and the Society: Freedom of Expression
Forum on Cartoon and the Society : on Freedom of Expression was held in conjunction of Malaysia Day on the 16th Sept. 2017 by LEAD. Zunar, Sireh and Ronasina, three well known cartoonist came to share their thoughts on various issues regarding their industry. Zunar, the first full-time cartoonist to recieve CPJ's International Press Freedom Award and two times winner of Human Rights Watch's Hellman/Hammett Award and the recipient of "Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award" by the Washington based Cartoonist Right Network International is now under the travel ban from Malaysian government after series of exhibitions he made overseas. Sireh, is now a lecturer at Multimedia University and Ronasina is now an editor at Gila-Gila magazine, the oldest cartoon magazine still alive in the region.
It began with an introductory remarks from all three panellist about their involvements in cartoon, what sparked their interest and how they see cartoon as a medium of influencing the society. Zunar shared several anecdotes about the pressure that he and his friends got from the authority even when he attended a non-political event. After that, the forum discusses about the issue of freedom of expression. Among other things, the issue of Charlie Hebdo and the said caricature of prophet Muhammad was discussed at length in which the panelist have a different stands. While Sireh and Ronasina believed that freedom of expression never meant freedom to insult, Zunar believed otherwise. To him, it is the responsibility of Muslim cartoonist to portray the prophet that they believed in instead of resorting to killing or an act of terrorism.
Before the two hours discussion is concluded, which was attended by mostly cartoonist from different medias - government and opposition newspapers, independent newsportal etc.., it discusses at length about the issue of copyrights. The famous Ujang (the name of a well know cartoonist and cartoon magazine) in Malaysia is a classic example about how cartoonist should be aware about their rights. Zunar especially believe that no other rights can be greater than natural justice.