In Malaysia, illustrator and graphic designer Fahmi Reza has been sentenced to a month in jail and fined for drawing a sketch of the Prime Minister as a clown and posting it on Instagram two years ago. His crime was defined as propagating content that was “obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person.”
He was protesting Malaysia’s Sedition Act, claiming that widespread corruption made everyone ‘seditious’ – and which had been used against cartoonists, only to find himself charges under the same, and other, acts. As well as this charge he is also being tried for digitally altering a Malaysian government takedown notice, also for satirical purpose, and posting to Facebook and could mean more fines and more years in jail.
Fahmi is not jet in jail as he is appealing the decision. The fine, however, has to be paid now.
Amnesty International has spoken out against the decision and sentence, saying that it is yet another example of the continued crackdown on dissent by Malaysian authorities.
In happier news last week, charges of counterfeiting and forgery in Equatorial Guinea against political cartoonist Nsé Ramón Esono Ebalé were dropped, after he was imprisoned without bail since last September. He has now been released without charge.
Ebalé lived in neighbouring Paraguay creating cartoons as Jamón y Queso, or Ham & Cheese. He created cartoons and a graphic novel critical of the Equatorial Guinea government and its leader Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, which imagined what it would be like if he was a citizen living under his own government.
“They say I’m a rich president and why shouldn’t I be? Aren’t I the owner and absolute lord of a rich country? Weren’t my family and friends born in this rich country? Do I not write laws and give orders in a rich country? Don’t they like me overseas because my country is rich? It’s normal that I’m rich because I have given my life for this country. Don’t you think the abnormal thing would be if all of you, my compatriots, were rich without having done anything for your country? Don’t let our enemies who want to destabilize our environment of peace, glory, and harmony fool you
When he returned to Equatorial Guinea for a new passport, he was arrested on charges of being an undercover agent, counterfeiting currency. Bail was refused and he had to deposit $36,000 US with the court in case of fines. He will now, at least, be able to get that back..
The madness continues…