Malaysian police arrest artist for allegedly insulting queen with Spotify playlist

by Reuters
Saturday, 24 April 2021 11:29 GMT

(Updates with artist's release)

KUALA LUMPUR, April 24 (Reuters) - A Malaysian artist was detained by police late on Friday for allegedly insulting the country's queen by making a Spotify playlist that mocked comments on the queen's Instagram account, an arrest condemned by rights groups as a clampdown on free speech.

Police said in a statement the graphic artist, Fahmi Reza, had uploaded a Spotify playlist with songs containing the word 'jealousy', with a photo of Queen Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah.

Fahmi, who was being investigated under Malaysia's sedition and communications laws, had also posted a link to the playlist on his Facebook account, police criminal investigations director Huzir Mohamed said.

The posts follow a reported remark made on the queen's Instagram account this week in response to a follower asking if the palace chefs were all vaccinated.

According to local media, the queen's Instagram account responded by asking if the follower was jealous, which caused an uproar on social media. The Instagram account was briefly deactivated and when reinstated did not have the remarks.

A palace spokesman did not immediately respond to a Reuters query about the remark and Fahmi's arrest.

Fahmi was released on police bail on Saturday evening, his lawyer, Yohendra Nadarajah, told Reuters, adding that it was unclear if or when the artist would be charged.

"Investigation papers will be sent to the Attorney General's Chambers," the lawyer said.

Fahmi was once sentenced to jail in Malaysia for portraying former prime minister Najib Razak as a clown, though his sentence was later commuted.

His arrest comes amid increasing concerns from rights groups over a crackdown on dissent under Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Amnesty International Malaysia on Friday said satirical works should not be seen as a crime.

"Time and time again, the draconian Sedition Act and CMA are used as a tool by the authorities to silence critical voices and dissent. This needs to stop," Amnesty said on Twitter, referring to Malaysia's Sedition Act and Communications and Multimedia Act.

Malaysia fell 18 places on Reporters Without Borders' 2021 World Press Freedom index - the steepest drop from last year among all countries. (Reporting by Liz Lee and Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Michael Perry and Ros Russell)

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