Court jails artist for clown caricature of PM

A Malaysian artist was jailed for a month Tuesday for publishing a caricature of scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak looking like a clown, the latest government critic to be imprisoned.

Fahmi Reza’s picture of the premier wearing powder-white clown make-up, with evilly arched eyebrows and blood-red lips, went viral and the image was widely used in demonstrations against Najib.

His lawyer Syahredzan Johan said Fahmi, 40, was jailed and fined 30,000 ringgit ($7,700) by a court in the northern city of Ipoh after being found guilty of breaching laws that ban the spreading online of content that is deemed offensive.

“We are certainly appealing and are disappointed by the decision,” Syahredzan told AFP.

Fahmi was arrested and charged in June 2016 after his drawing went viral.

Najib, who must call elections by August, has been cracking down hard on dissent since allegations emerged that billions of dollars were looted from a sovereign wealth fund that he founded. Najib and the fund, 1MDB, deny any wrongdoing.

A tough new security law has been enacted and government critics have been increasingly targeted.

A leading opposition MP was sentenced to 30 months in jail earlier this month for his role in exposing confidential banking details, which he alleged showed political corruption. The sentence disqualifies him from the looming polls.

Rafizi Ramli, vice-president of the People’s Justice Party of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, is still free pending an appeal.

Fahmi is not the first artist to be targeted. Top political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque — who goes by the pen name Zunar — was arrested for sedition in 2016 after regularly lampooning Najib and his wife in his drawings.

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