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Malaysian police arrest artist for allegedly insulting queen with Spotify playlist

Malaysian police arrest artist for allegedly insulting queen with Spotify playlist

Artist Fahmi Reza is best known for his cartoon depicting Najib Razak as a clown that became a symbol of protest before the former prime minister's scandal-hit regime lost power in 2018. (File photo: AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian artist was detained by police late on Friday (Apr 23) for allegedly insulting the country's queen by making a Spotify playlist that mocked comments on the queen's Instagram account, an arrest condemned by rights groups as a clampdown on free speech.

Police said in a statement that the graphic artist, Fahmi Reza, had uploaded a Spotify playlist with songs containing the word "jealousy", with a photo of Queen Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah.

Fahmi, who was being investigated under Malaysia's sedition and communications laws, had also posted a link to the playlist on his Facebook account, police criminal investigations director Huzir Mohamed said.

The posts follow a reported remark made on the queen's Instagram account this week in response to a follower asking if the palace chefs were all vaccinated.

According to local media, the queen's Instagram account responded by asking if the follower was jealous, which caused an uproar on social media. The Instagram account was briefly deactivated, and when reinstated did not have the remarks.

READ: Malaysian news site editor questioned for sedition

A palace spokesman did not immediately respond to a Reuters query about the remark and Fahmi's arrest.

Fahmi was once sentenced to jail in Malaysia for portraying former prime minister Najib Razak as a clown, though his sentence was later commuted.

Fahmi's arrest comes amid increasing concerns from rights groups over a crackdown on dissent under Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Amnesty International Malaysia on Friday said that satirical works should not be seen as a crime.

"Time and time again, the draconian Sedition Act and CMA are used as a tool by the authorities to silence critical voices and dissent. This needs to stop," Amnesty said on Twitter, referring to Malaysia's Sedition Act and Communications and Multimedia Act.

Malaysia fell 18 places on Reporters Without Borders' 2021 World Press Freedom Index - the steepest drop from last year among all countries.

Source: Reuters/kg


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