Sunday, February 7, 2016

PM Najib Razak Left Red Nosed

An outpouring of solidarity for dissident artist Fahmi Reza in the form of posters shared online. Fahmi Reza Twitter pic, February 5, 2016

Colorful images of Prime Minister Najib Razak dolled up in chalk-white makeup, with a bright red gash for a smile and neon green (or occasionally lush orange) hair, greet visitors to the Facebook community page called Grupa.
Grupa is "Grafik Rebel Untuk Protes & Aktivisme", or in English, "Rebel Graphics for Protests and Activism" – which brought together graphic designers and digital artists to design posters for last year's Bersih 4.0 demo in Kuala Lumpur.
Now, they have set their sights on a new project: flooding social media with pictures of a clown-faced Najib – sometimes grinning, sometimes sad, and sometimes with a rose dangling from between his lips – along with the hashtag #KitaSemuaPenghasut (we are all seditious).  

We already know of Malaysia's award-winning cartoonist, Zunar (left)  who was arrested for sedition and had his books banned in 2010  for the crime of drawing satirical comics on the prime minister and his wife.

A sample of Zunar's cartoons:

In the case of Grupa, their antics are more than just a colorful dig at Najib.  

They told The Malaysian Insider they were risking arrest to stand up for fellow graphic artist Fahmi Reza (left), who posted the first clown caricature of Najib on his own Twitter on January 31, 2016, and promptly attracted police attention.
In Fahmi's debut clown poster of Najib, he drew a fang-like smile on the prime minister's face and sinister-looking eyebrows, with the caption: "In 2015, the Sedition Act was used 91 times. Tapi dalam negara yang penuh dengan korupsi, kita semua penghasut (but in a country that is full of corruption, we are all seditious)".
It was in response to the attorney-general's decision to close investigations into the RM2.6 billion found in Najib's personal bank accounts.
Clearly unimpressed, the Twitter account for the police's Cyber Investigation Response Center (@OfficialPcirc) warned him that he was under their surveillance – perhaps hoping the errant behavior will cease.
But Fahmi was undeterred and he posted a statement on Facebook in Malay, which translates to, "In a country that uses laws to protect the corrupt and oppress those brave enough to speak out, it is time we abandon all niceties when fighting the corrupt rulers".
And he also posted another satirical artwork on Twitter, using the hashtag #BigBrotherIsWatchingYou, an ode to George Orwell's 1984.
The activist, who recalled his arrest 12 years ago for drawing a poster on police brutality, didn't expect the Internet's graphic artist community to rise up with him in solidarity this time around.
The #KitaSemuaPenghasut movement was a "new wave graphic rebellion against the Old Order", he said, and the response has been overwhelming.
"It was beyond my expectations. It proved to me that I was not alone. There were others who share my outrage. Grupa is a breath of fresh air," said Fahmi.
The country is saddled with oppressive laws and Grupa, as well as Fahmi, risk running afoul of the law, more specifically Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. A conviction could land the artists a fine of up to RM50,000, a year's jail, or both.
But the prospect of having the police cyber unit clamp down on them doesn't seem to perturb Grupa. They said they were frightened of just one thing: being trampled over should they not voice out.
For now, the group plans to continue sharing clown images of the prime minister as long as it believes citizens are being repressed and denied their right to free speech and freedom of expression.

Besides receiving Facebook likes and shares, they gained international publicity when BBC Trending picked up the story on Wednesday under the title “PM left red nosed by censorship protest” (Refer
Pic from BBC Trending on February 03, 2016. Also Lim Kit Siang for Malaysia blog on February 04, 2016

Fahmi is confident Malaysia's #KitaSemuaPenghasut movement will herald a change in society.
"When people are emboldened to defy and stand up against injustice, it chips away at the power structure that keeps people docile".
Keep up the good fight!

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