KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 18 — The repeated arrests and prosecution of graphic artist Fahmi Reza for his satirical works shows an erosion of the constitutional right to freedom of expression in Malaysia, according to Opposition lawmaker Lim Guan Eng.
The DAP secretary-general said the country’s ruling elite should rightfully use their powers to protect the public.
However, he said the repeated court actions against Fahmi showed that ministers were abusing their powers to shield themselves against public criticism.
“Clearly the public space for criticism and freedom of expression is slowly but surely disappearing under an extremist regime that has no regard for democracy and the dangers of corruption.
“DAP urges these charges to be withdrawn to demonstrate that Malaysia respects internet freedom from government interference,” Lim said in a statement today.
Fahmi has been twice charged this week with misusing network facilities with intent to insult first Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba, and later Islamist party PAS for two different illustrations.
Lim, who is Bagan MP, said these charges were unnecessary when the minister in question had taken no legal action against Fahmi for alleged defamation.
The former finance minister said that when the Pakatan Harapan coalition held federal power, “no one was charged under cyber laws for criticising the Prime Minister, Ministers or political parties regardless of how false and unfair the criticisms were, including baseless racist and extremist attacks”.
“Even when cyber threats to the personal safety of PH Ministers were made, no action was by the authorities,” he added.
Fahmi was charged yesterday under Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) for a satirical illustration that linked PAS and beer.
If convicted for this offence, Fahmi faces a maximum fine of RM50,000 or a one-year jail sentence.
He was first charged with insulting Dr Adham on February 10.