Malaysia: Artist sentenced to prison over caricature of prime minister

28 February 2018



UPDATE: On 20 February 2018, Fahmi Reza, a Malaysian ‘visual disobedience’ artist who was charged over a clown caricature of Malaysian Prime Minister Razak, was sentenced to serve one month in jail and was also fined 30,000 ringgits (approx. 6,240 euros), reported BBC. He was able to crowdfund the amount needed to pay off the fine.

According to Syahredzan Johan, Fahmi’s lawyer, the judge did not present a reasoning for the ruling, reported Reuters.

This article was updated on 28 February 2018. The original article, entitled Malaysia: Artist charged over caricature of prime minister, was published on 7 June 2016 and appears below.

Malaysian ‘visual disobedience’ artist Fahmi Reza has been charged over a clown caricature of Malaysian Prime Minister Razak. He faces a possible one-year prison sentence and a US$16,580 fine, said his attorney according to AFP on 6 June 2016.

On his Facebook page, the 38-year-old artist wrote:

“I am not afraid to stand trial for my art, and for my right to use art and design as a weapon to fight against corruption, oppression and injustice.

In a country where a graphic designer can be censored, arrested, investigated and prosecuted for his art, it is important that this vital form of artistic expression – parody and satire as a form of political protest – is continued to be practised and to be defended at all costs.

As a design activist, I will continue to use my graphics as a tool to raise awareness, to wake people up, as a medium of protest and as a tool to push for change in Malaysia.”


Fahmi Reza was charged under a section of Malaysian communications and multimedia laws that forbid disseminating online content deemed to “annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass” others.

Fahmi Reza pleaded not guilty in court. His attorney, Syahredzan Johan, said the charge was “essentially criminalising [free] expression.”

International human rights groups warned that free expression and democratic rights in Malaysia are under severe threat, reported AFP.

With a background in electrical engineering, Fahmi is a self-taught graphic designer who is known for his instantly recognisable political posters. He is also a documentary film-maker. His first exhibition, in 2014, was entitled ‘12 Years of Visual Disobedience’.



Photo above: Facebook post by Fahmi Reza, photos uploaded on Fahmi Reza’s Facebook page, Fahmi Reza poses with his caricature of Prime Minister Najib Razak. Source:

» Fahmi Reza’s Twitter account

Photo on top of this page: Fahmi Reza painting a caricature of Prime Minister Najib Razak Source:


» The Straits Times – 6 June 2016:
Malaysian artist Fahmi Reza charged for depicting PM Najib as clown

» ABC – 6 June 2016:
Malaysian artist charged for depicting PM Najib Razak as clown

» Voice Project – 7 April 2016:
Fahmi Reza Targeted by Malaysian Prime Minister for Cartoon Movement


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