6 June – Malaysian graphic designer Fahmi Reza, known for his anti-establishment artwork, was charged in Sessions Court today for posting a caricature of Prime Minister Najib Razak depicted as a clown online.
The image, which has been widely shared not only across the internet, but has also made its way onto stickers, t-shirts, and graffiti on walls, was posted in January this year to Fahmi’s social media accounts, along with the words: “Dalam negara yang penuh dengan korupsi, kita semua penghasut (In a country full of corruption, we are all seditious).”
Fahmi, 39, was accused of making and disseminating the “offensive” image with intent to annoy another person.
He was charged under Section 233(1) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. If convicted, Fahmi may be sentenced to a year in prison, subjected to a maximum fine of RM50,000 (US$12,174), or both.
The judge granted RM5,000 (US$1,217) bail with one surety and set June 17 for mention.
Over the past weekend, Fahmi was already in trouble with the authorities – he and three others were detained by police on Saturday night, following their participation in the KL Alternative Bookfest (KLAB) at Publika Shopping Gallery in Kuala Lumpur.
The police questioned him for selling merchandise deemed “seditious”.
Fahmi – along with KLAB organiser Pang Khee Teik, activist Lew Pik-Svonn, and comic artist Arif Rafhan – was released on police bail on Sunday.
According to the International Business Times, he is being investigated under Section 41(c) of the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 11 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984.
After his release, Fahmi posted to his Facebook account:
“You can arrest me, arrest my friends, confiscate my stuff, detain me, interrogate me, charge me, put me on trial, take away my rights and try to shut me up, but you can’t keep me down. No matter how hard you try to push me down, I will always rise back up.”