ZARGANAR is Burma's most famous social satirist and activist. A former dentist (hence his stage name Zarganar, "Tweezers" in Burmese), he became famous in the late 1980s for his stage and TV performances, which poked fun at the corruption of Burma's military leaders, deteriorating living standards, and the lack of basic freedoms in Burma. In November 2008, a Ragoon court sentenced the prominent comedian, actor and director to 59 years in jail - a sentence later reduced to 35 years - for disbursing relief aid and talking to the international media about the Government's failure to assist victims of Cyclone Nargis. Zarganar was previously detained for a year following the 1988 pro-democracy demonstrations in Burma, and jailed for four years from 1990 - 1994 for making political speeches. He was again arrested in September 2007 for publicly supporting the monks during the Saffron Revolution, and detained for three weeks. Zarganar is serving his current sentence in Myitkyina, Kachin State, northern Burma, over a 1000 kilometres from any of his family in Rangoon. Both his parents have died since he was jailed. He was not allowed to attend either of their funerals.
Censorship in Burma is draconian, and freedom of speech highly constrained. Burmese actor/director and Myanmar Academy Award winner U KYAW THU, a close artistic and humanitarian colleague of Zarganar, cannot work as an actor and director because his work would be banned. Like him, many artists find themselves unable to have work published or screened if they speak out against the government or even engage in humanitarian activities. Performers and artists are often at the front line in the fight for freedom of expression.
Please support the causes of Zarganar and U Kyaw Thu by signing this petition. Please also send it to all your friends, family and colleagues urging them to support this petition, too. THANK YOU!
We, the undersigned artists, filmmakers and members of civil society call for creative freedom in Burma, the immediate removal of work bans for artists like U Kyaw Thu and the immediate release of the comedian Zarganar who is currently imprisoned for his humanitarian work and political views.