Saturday, March 19, 2016
Fahmi Reza - Protest in Malaysia
In 1968, the AtelierPopulaire's striking posters captured the mood of French students agitating for change. Nearly 50 years later, the movement has inspired a whole new generation of activists, thousands of kilometres eastward in Malaysia.
38-year-old activist Fahmi Reza and the collective of artists who call themselves Grafik Rebel untuk Protes & Aktivisme (GRUPA), are motivated by outrage at a ballooning scandal over state investment firm, 1MDB, and hundreds of millions of dollars transferred into the private bank accounts of Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The allegations are still under investigation in the United States, Switzerland and Singapore, but Malaysia's own top prosecutor decided in January not to press charges because he said the money was a "gift" from Saudi Arabia, and the prime minister has denied any wrongdoing.
Outraged by the decision, Reza was inspired to draw a caricature of the prime minister as a clown and shared it with his 7,500 followers on Twitter. The image, shared widely across social media, was accompanied by a caption that read: "In a country full of corruption, we are all seditious."
His decision to depict Najib as an "evil clown" was designed to draw attention to "the level of absurdity that's used to cover up the scandal and corruption", Reza said in an email to Al Jazeera from Thailand, where he is working. "Our country is being governed by fools and crooks."
In recent months, authorities have issued warnings against those deemed to have gone too far, blocking websites, including Asia Sentinel and Sarawak Report, both of whom have been critical of the prime minister.
The blogging platform, Medium, was also blocked after the company refused to remove Sarawak Report from the site. The Malaysian Insider, a prominent news website, was also blocked and its editors questioned about a story related to the investigation into the allegations against the prime minister.