In a note from prison, artist-activist Fahmi Reza has made a call for the defence of satire and parodies to be used as a form of protest.
Lawyer Yohendra Nadarajan read out the note after the remand hearing at Dang Wangi police station lock-up where Fahmi was detained overnight.
"In a country where a graphic designer is censored, arrested and locked up for his artworks, it is very important for these creative expressions - parodies and satires as protests - to continue to be practised and defended," said Fahmi in his note.
Various rights groups focusing on freedom of expression had, in an immediate response, condemned the use of the Sedition Act against Fahmi, arguing that satire is an accepted form of criticism protected by the Federal Constitution.
Coming together as the Freedom of Expression Cluster, the group described the arrest as being unwarranted, disproportionate and demonstrates the current government’s persistent heavy-handed response to any form of expression that is critical of ruling powers.
"Satire plays an important role in society as a space for commentary, discussion and debate on shared values.
"Political satire, in particular, plays an important role to engage with institutional power in a way that creates space for humour," said the group in a statement last night.
Fahmi was arrested last night for a jealousy-theme Spotify playlist that was allegedly insulting Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah.
Based on the links provided by Bukit Aman CID chief Huzir Mohamed in a statement late last night, the playlist originally featured a portrait of the queen along with the words: “This is Dengki Ke?”
The playlist featured 101 English and Malay songs by various artists, nearly all of which were jealousy themed.
Separately, DAP's Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang joined the call for Fahmi's immediate release, stressing that political satire is not a crime.
"What is most deplorable is the police break-in into Fahmi’s house and damage to the front door during the arrest," Lim said in a statement.
Earlier today, magistrate Nitya Ravindran denied the police's application for four days’ remand and instead granted only one day to record Fahmi's statement.
Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Society (Hakam) said it was appalled by the manner in which Fahmi's detention was handled, calling it "entirely needless".
"Cannot any information that the police need be obtained by calling Fahmi for an interview at the police station during working hours; and the interview continued if necessary, the following day?
"This police action seems to be an overreach and has earned the ire of people who view this as a premature punishment to imprison Fahmi in a police cell," said Hakam president Gurdial Singh Nijar.
He added that Fahmi's act was doing little more than exercising his literary licence.
Fahmi is being investigated under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) is being conducted by the Bukit Aman Classified Criminal Investigation Unit, according to Huzir.
Gurdial said the CMA was not intended to curb free speech and its use defeats its objective.
Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah called Fahmi's detention a travesty of justice.
"Just recently, we see Malaysia dropped 18 places down in the Reporters Without Borders annual press freedom ranking for 2021 - the steepest drop, placing it at 119 out of 180 countries.
"Since the takeover of the PN (Perikatan Nasional) government, freedom of expression and right to assemble have taken a backslide in view of the 'come back' of the Anti Fake News, arrests of peaceful protestors, the suspension of the Parliament and hence curbing the critical voices of elected representatives, and the contempt charges and exorbitant costs imposed against Malaysiakini, an online media portal.
"These are stark failings of a government that do not stand for the constitutional rights of the people," she said.