Graphic artist and activist Fahmi Reza’s clown-faced caricatures of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has earned him a freedom of expression award nomination by a UK-based non-profit organisation that campaigns against censorship worldwide.
Fahmi, who was shortlisted in the arts field for Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards 2017, joined 15 other nominees from around the world who fought to overcome censorship from their respective governments.
“Index on Censorship believes defiant voices like (Fahmi) Reza’s offer real hope for Malaysia’s future and we commend the inspiration and hope he has transmitted across Malaysia and beyond,” said the group in a statement.
Aside from the clown-faced Najib image, the group also credited Fahmi’s role to encourage debate on freedom of expression in Malaysia with his #KitaSemuaPenghasut (we are all seditious) hashtag.
“The creativity and bravery of the shortlisted nominees in challenging restrictions on freedom of expression reminds us that a small act - from a picture to a poem - can have a big impact.
“Our nominees have faced severe penalties for standing up for their beliefs. These awards recognise their courage and commitment to free speech,” said group CEO Jodie Ginsberg
Fahmi was arrested on June 4 last year for selling #KitaSemuaPenghasut T-shirts featuring the clown-faced Najib images.
One week later, he was charged under Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 for uploading ridiculing images of the country's leadership on Facebook, with an intention to annoy others.
Other shortlisted candidates include Chinese political cartoonist Wang Liming known as Rebel Pepper, Honduran LGBT organisation Arcoiris and Zimbabwean pastor Ewan Mawarire.
Past winners of the annual award, now in its 17th year, included Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai and assassinated Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
This year’s winners will be awarded during a ceremony in London on April 19.- Mkini