Burma's most famous comedian, Zarganar, is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence for his criticism of the Burmese government's handling of Cyclone Nargis which hit Burma on 2 May 2008. The cyclone devastated the country - more than 140,000 people died and millions were made homeless.
To mark World Press Freedom Day 2010 and to pay tribute to our brave colleague Zarganar, the Free Zarganar Campaign coalition will be holding a lively and colourful afternoon of comedy, poetry, performance and dance at Speaker’s Corner – the home of Free Speech in the UK – and will be calling for his immediate release.
Everyone is welcome to come and join in, so do spread the word! Please wear red to help show your support and bring along an umbrella - the more colourful the better - to take part in our umbrella stunt.
Who is Zarganar?
Burmese poet, comedian, filmmaker and actor, Zarganar, has long been an outspoken critic of Myanmar’s military government. He was most recently arrested on 4 June 2008 for his public criticism of the government’s response to the humanitarian crisis that emerged in the wake of Cyclone Nargis. After it emerged that the Myanmar government was obstructing international aid that was to be distributed to the devastated Irrawaddy Delta and the surrounding areas, Zarganar began to lead efforts to raise and distribute aid from private donors. Despite assurances from the authorities that private donors would be given free access to cyclone affected areas, Zarganar and at least 21 others were later arrested for their participation in the voluntary aid effort.
Zarganar was regarded as a reliable source of information from within Myanmar by the Burmese exile media and regularly gave interviews to journalists abroad. Through the interviews he exposed the devastation which had not been reported by the tightly-controlled Myanmar media. Zarganar and other volunteers documented the devastation caused by the cyclone and the voluntary relief operations that followed. They collected video footage and photographic evidence from the affected areas. At the time of his arrest, the police confiscated Zarganar’s computer, copies of several banned films, DVDs believed to contain footage of the cyclone damage, and US$1000 that had been collected for the cyclone victims.
Two days after his arrest, state-controlled media published warnings against the production of video footage of relief work for foreign news agencies.
Zarganar has insisted that humour in Burma will prevail. "Burmese people love to laugh. If I can’t speak, jokes will still spread. People will make them up themselves."
The Free Zarganar Campaign was launched by a consortium of human rights and freedom of expression advocates. Our goal is to mobilise public opinion and win his immediate release. We are now working with private citizens to further highlight Zarganar’s cause, mobilise worldwide opinion and press the Burmese military leaders to release Zarganar immediately.
Date: Monday, 03 May 2010
Time: 14:00 - 16:30
Location: Speaker's Corner, Hyde Park, London, UK
For further information on Zarganar, please see http://zarganar.blog.free.fr/ or email email@example.com