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Fahmi Reza (1977) is on his way to becoming Malaysia’s most persecuted cartoonist and could take over the title from his colleague Zunarthe Malaysian government has been relentlessly hounding him for years. No exaggeration, read on.
Forbidden to leave the country
On Friday 22 April, the police called the cartoonist and activist in for questioning without any explanation Fahmi Reza and found out that his name was blacklisted by the Immigration Department and that he is banned from leaving the country. According to the cartoonist, he has been on three such lists.
Fahmi he said on Facebook on Saturday 23 April.
“I have been blacklisted and banned from travelling abroad
I found out yesterday. My name is on an immigration blacklist. They blocked my passport renewal. The Department of Immigration said the restrictions come from Bukit Aman/PDRM. In May I need to go to Europe for a theatre performance. I am trying to get an authorisation from Bukit Aman (…)”
Arrested for a few beers
This year has been a busy one for Reza. In February, he was arrested and charged under section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act for the second time this year (the first court move was on 10 February on account of this other parody) and released on bail of RM3,000 (about EUR 700).
In the drawing, published by Fahmi on Facebook on 1 June 2021, depicted a toast with cans of Carlsberg over the caption: “Carlsberg for all”.
The illustration was a satire on the decision by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to approve all factories producing alcohol to operate as “essential services” during the national shutdown due to COVID-19
The decision sparked a public outcry that led the government to reverse its decision and ban breweries from operating until the lockout was relaxed.
“I am out on bail! One should not be afraid to defend our right to free speech because it instils courage in others to defend it. They can jail a rebel, but they can’t jail rebellion. #SatireIsNotACrime”, posted after leaving the court.
The indictment was yet another chapter in the government’s harassment campaign against Fahmi following criminal charges brought against him and multiple previous investigations. So far this year, Fahmi has posted RM8,000 (about $2,000) in bail.
“The government’s use of criminal charges in retaliation in an attempt to intimidate Fahmi Reza only succeeds in exposing its malicious witch-hunt against him. Their campaign of harassment and criminalisation of expression must stop.”
“Successive governments continue to use section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Law as a weapon to muzzle government critics and stifle artistic expression. It must be amended to ensure that it is no longer used to undermine freedom of expression.”
Trouble for a real chimpanzee
On April 14, he was arrested again for this drawing of a chimpanzee in published on the internet a chimpanzee in a king’s attire.
Fahmi Reza’s illustration shows Mojo Jojo, the supervillain from the popular 1990 series Powerpuff Girls, in traditional royal garb
It was a satirical response to an art purchase by the Sultan of Malaysia, Sharafuddin of Selangor, which to top it all is a painting with a satirical scene depicting lawmakers on both sides of the Malaysian parliament as monkeys, apes and frogs, but not President Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun and his deputies.
In Malaysia, “frog” is also used as a euphemism for elected legislators who switch parties and political affiliations.
Absurdity taken to the limit. This is the painting in question and in this publication official website has a photo gallery with more detail.
Convicted for clowning around
In 2018, Reza was convicted for a cartoon and was at the gates of jail, eventually the Malaysian High Court commuted the sentence and reduced his sentence from one month imprisonment and a fine of RM30,000 to only a fine of RM10,000.
He was found guilty of publishing on the internet the caricature of the former prime minister Najib Razak made up as a clown with the message “In a country full of corruption, we are all seditious”.
Paradox of humour, in 2020 former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption.
As expected, Reza later dedicated several cartoon to him.
Here are the details of that mess.
About “Bukit Aman
Bukit Aman, which translates to ‘Peace Hill’, (officially Ibu Pejabat Polis Diraja Malaysia) is the name given to the district where various Royal Malaysian Police departments and their headquarters, as well as other important police, strategic and security facilities are located
Humour in trouble, a collection of cases (III)
Cases of cartoonists who have had problems of some importance because of their cartoons or satirical illustrations. There are also some stories of other people who, without being cartoonists, have got into trouble for sharing them.