Malaysia: Second criminal charge against artist Fahmi Reza this year

Today, authorities charged artist Fahmi Reza under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act for the second time this year. Fahmi was released on bail set at RM 3,000 (approximately USD 750). The graphic, posted by Fahmi on Facebook on 1 June 2021, depicts a can of Carlsberg beer and reads, ‘Carlsberg for everyone.’ The graphic is a satirical commentary on the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s decision to grant approval for all factories producing alcohol to operate as ‘essential services’ throughout the nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19. The decision caused a public outcry, leading the government to revoke its decision and ban the operations of breweries until the lockdown was relaxed.

Today’s charge forms part of a campaign of government harassment targeting Fahmi following criminal charges against him last week and multiple previous investigations. So far this year Fahmi has paid RM 8,000 (approximately USD 2,000) in bail charges.

Nalini Elumalai, Senior Malaysia Program Officer at ARTICLE 19, said:

“The government’s use of retaliatory criminal charges in an attempt to intimidate Fahmi Reza only succeeds in exposing their malicious witch-hunt against him. Their campaign of harassment and criminalization of expression must stop.”

“Successive governments continue to weaponize Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act to muzzle government critics and stifle artistic expression. It must be amended to ensure it is no longer used to undermine freedom of expression.”