Malaysia, no country for jokes
The cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Alhaque, known as “Zunar“, continues to face repression by the Malaysian government. The authorities are not amused by his cartoons and are determined to imprison him for them.
Cartoonist has again been summoned under investigation for this cartoon published on 23 January on his social media accounts.
The image criticised Kedah state chief Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor’s decision to cancel this year’s Thaipusam, a Hindu religious festival usually celebrated by the Tamil community on 28 January.
The cartoon shows the ruler striking with a butcher knife (with the words “No Thaipusam”) a table around which representatives of the various ethnic groups of Malaysia were seated.
A text above them reads: “The people of Kedah lived in peace until he came“.
They intend to try him under Section 505c of the Penal Code and Multimedia Law 233. He is due to appear again at the Kedah State District Police Headquarters (IPD) on 2 May at 11am.
The legal proceedings against Zunar were initiated by the chairman of the youth wing of the Malaysian Islamic Party. The defamation proceedings against the cartoonist were initiated with the aim, he said, of “teaching a lesson to all those who think that everything can be arbitrarily politicised“.
It is already difficult to keep up with the eternal legal history in which Zunar has been embroiled for the past seven years and which has no end in sight. Zunar is still being prosecuted for sedition even though the government has changed.
The surrealist case of Fahmi Reza
Malaysian police this week also arrested cartoonist Fahmi Reza and remanded him in custody for a day on sedition charges for allegedly insulting the queen using… a Spotify playlist.
According to the police statement the graphic artist had created a Spotify playlist with songs containing the word “jealousy” with a picture of Queen Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah (Mind you, this woman’s name is even longer, much longer).
Cover of the playlist by Malaysian artist Fahmi Reza that has been deemed an insult to the country’s queen.
I found this case hard to understand because of its absurdity, the origin of this story is supposed to be a comment made on the Queen’s Instagram account in response to a follower asking if the palace cooks were all vaccinated.
According to local media, the Queen’s Instagram account responded by asking if the follower was jealous. This caused something of a stir on social media. The Instagram account was briefly deactivated and by the time it was restored the comments had disappeared.
Fahmi Reza was already at the gates of jail in 2018 when he was charged with sedition over a cartoon of former Prime Minister Najib Razak. Read that story here.