Despite being arrested multiple times over the years for his political satire, Fahmi Reza remains relentless in producing artwork depicting his cutting critiques of Malaysia’s ruling class and politicians.
He posted his latest political cartoon on social media today without a caption, but it seems to be clearly directed at Malaysia’s finance minister, Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz.
The artwork features a character in the style of The Simpsons that many users believe is related to the character Waylon Joseph Smithers Jr, the loyal, obedient, and sycophantic assistant to Mr. Burns (we can only speculate as to whether Fahmi intended this connection or if it is just coincidence).
The artwork shows the character wearing a red bowtie and holding a wad of cash along with a quote that translates to “I’m not interested in any political party”. The logo of Malaysia’s Barisan Nasional (BN) can be seen on the right side of the character’s shirt while the left shows the Selangor state flag.
Image: Fahmi Reza/Twitter
This comes after Zafrul’s statement last month that he was not looking for a political career and wanted to focus on the country’s economic recovery. However, yesterday, BN announced that it was appointing Zafrul as the party’s Selangor treasurer.
Fahmi’s artwork is appreciated by many Malaysians, who feel that he accurately represents their sentiments towards an unjust system. However, not everybody feels that way, as evidenced by the number of times the 45-year-old has been arrested and questioned by the police over his artworks.
The latest incident was in April when he was arrested for sedition over art he posted to his social media accounts depicting an ape wearing yellow clothing that resembles the attire worn by Malaysian monarchs.
Prior to his arrest, news outlets reported that Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah had bought a painting depicting primates and frogs arguing in the Dewan Rakyat believed to be a critique against the government and opposition lawmakers.
After Fahmi published his art, posted a message on Twitter stating “if we can accept and not censor satirical art that makes others as apes, then we must also accept and not censor the satirical work that depicts us as apes.”
Fahmi was investigated for sedition and a breach of Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act.
Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act – a broad and vague provision considered by many to be inconsistent with international law governing freedom of expression – has been used to systematically silence critical voices online. Local human rights organization, Suaram, documented at least a hundred cases of individuals questioned or charged under the law in 2021.
On April 23, Fahmi found out he was on the immigration blacklist and barred from renewing his passport. He had plans to travel to Europe in May for a theatre show. The ban was however lifted on May 9.