Malaysian Artist Fahmi Reza Jailed For Mocking Prime Minister
By Sophie von Wunster
Malaysian artist and activist Fahmi Reza has been jailed and fined for publishing a caricature of his country’s prime minister, Najib Razak. The artist was sentenced to one month in jail and fined MYR 30,000 (USD 7,640) after being found guilty of breaking laws that ban the dissemination of offensive content.
Fahmi was arrested in June 2016 after his drawing went viral on social media. The caricature features Najib in clown face makeup, and was used extensively in anti-government protests in Malaysia in the summer of 2016.
Najib has been facing strong public dissent since allegations that he misappropriated USD 4.5 billion from a sovereign wealth fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), surfaced. The prime minister and 1MDB, which he founded, have denied the accusations.
Fahmi’s arrest is part of a wider crackdown on opposition in Malaysia. Several websites and news outlets were blocked after running negative coverage about the prime minister and 1MDB. Also in 2016, a political cartoonist working under the pseudonym Zunar was arrested for sedition due to drawings mocking Najib and his wife.
Fahmi Reza has been an outspoken critic of the prime minister and government censorship. His posts often feature the hashtag “#KitaSemuaPenghasut,” meaning “we are all seditious,” to bring attention to the government’s tightened restrictions on freedom of speech and expression.
Sophie von Wunster is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.
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