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 in Trafalgar Square in London and will be calling for his immediate release.
Everyone is welcome to come and join in, so do spread the word!
PLEASE WEAR READ TO HELP SHOW YOUR SUPPORT AND BRING ALONG AN UMBRELLA – THE MORE COLOURFUL THE BETTER – TO TAKE PART IN OUR UMBRELLA STUNT AT 2pm!
Carole Seymour-Jones, Deputy President of English PEN and Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee will introduce the event
Journalist and friend of Zarganar Bo Bo Lansin will tell us about Zarganar’s work and the role of artists in Burma
Freelance journalist and former political prisoner Nita May will talk about freedom of the press for women in Burma and give us the lastest news on Zarganar
Former political prisoner and close friend of Zarganar Aung Thwin will recount his own experiences of prison life and memories of living with Zarganar
Activist and former colleague of Zarganar Dr Win Naing will talk about Zarganar’s family and about his experiences of working with him in the late 80s.
With additional performances by:
The Burmese Theatre Workshop and actress Camila Fiori
The Burmese Theatre Workshop is a non-political London based Burmese touring theatre company, the only one in the world. The Company was established at the Drill Hall in June 2009 by ten Burmese actors and one wheelchair using Brit who wanted to create well crafted, challenging theatre that would empower Burmese people to change themselves and the people around them and to raise the profile and standing of Burmese theatre in the UK. Their work promotes the creativity, culture and heritage of Burmese people, promotes new writing, emerging artists and new audiences.
Camila Fiori is an actress with a performance and visual arts background. Her work explores boundaries and cross-overs in both content and form. Her work encourages integration and celebrates the right to share our voices. As a PEN aficionada and Equity member with a personal and political interest in freedom, exile and imprisonment, she supports the campaign to free Zarganar.
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.**
For further information on Zarganar, please see http://zarganar.blog.free.fr/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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