Rights group calls Fahmi travel ban ‘hypocritical, cowardly act’
SEVERAL Human Rights groups have panned the authorities for placing graphic artist Fahmi Reza on a no-fly list, barring him from leaving the country.
They pointed out that the same caveat was not applied to a number of high-profile people – including former prime minister Najib Razak, his wife Rosmah Mansor, former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi – who have been allowed to leave the country, even while on trial or after a criminal conviction in the case of Najib.
They said the practice of favouring elites smacked of a “double standard”.
“Fahmi’s case is a classic example of the government’s hypocrisy, (whereby) practising a double standard to blacklist Fahmi, while former prime minister Najib was allowed to leave the country,” Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) executive director Sevan Doraisamy said.
“In Najib’s case, he is a convict but he is still allowed to leave. The corruption cases, especially 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), are a national embarrassment.
“It is unfair as there are serious criminal cases pending and they (Najib, Rosmah and Zahid), are allowed to freely move around.
“This is pure hypocrisy and a cowardly act by the government and its enforcement agencies,” Sevan told The Malaysian Insight.
Last week, Fahmi said he has been barred from travelling overseas. The graphic artist said that the stop order came from Bukit Aman.
Fahmi said he needed to travel to Europe in May as he was involved in a theatre production and claimed that he would try to get clearance from Bukit Aman after Hari Raya.
Last year, Najib and Rosmah were given permission to fly to Singapore to visit their daughter, Nooryana Najwa, who delivered her second child in the island republic.
Zahid also had his impounded passport returned last year, as he sought medical treatment in Germany.
Early this month, Zahid again succeeded in his application to regain temporary custody of his passport, as he told court he wanted to perform the Umrah.
Global Human Rights Federation president Shashi Kumar said double standards in Malaysia have become the norm.
He said although article 8 of the Federal Constitution reads: “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of the law,” it is not applied in practice.
“Malaysia’s practice of double standards and discrimination has become a standard operating procedure (SOP).
“It is somewhat normal that the law works differently for the ordinary people compared to ministers. The gap between ordinary citizens and them is huge.
“They have powerful influences, although some are not in office anymore.
“We have article 8, which protects all and states that law is equal to all regardless of race or religion but that is not being followed,” Shashi said.
‘Satire is not a crime’ – allow freedom of expression
Fahmi, whose biting illustrations have on several occasions irked the authorities, ran into trouble again over another drawing, which is being investigated under the Sedition Act.
Fahmi was arrested under section 4 of the Sedition Act 1948 and section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 over an illustration of Mojo Jojo, the main villain in the cartoon The Powerpuff Girls.
His rendition of Mojo Jojo dressed in royal attire displeased the authorities.
Section 4 of the Sedition Act 1948 concerns the offence of committing acts with seditious tendencies. It carries a punishment of up to three years in prison, a RM5,000 fine or both, for the first offence.
Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 criminalises, among others, the use of network facilities or network services by a person to transmit any communication that is deemed to be offensive and could cause annoyance to another person.
It carries a fine of up to RM50,000 or up to a year in jail or both.
Sevan said the police’s use of both acts is unwarranted and unnecessary, adding that more than 20 cases have been recorded in four months and he called on the government to abolish both the acts.
“The authorities are using these acts not only to silence dissent but also to intimidate the voices of the people.
Sevan said that Fahmi’s graphics are a form of advocacy against corruption, wrongdoings as well as double standards by authorities and politicians.
“He should be celebrated as an exemplary citizen for his persistent and continuous struggle for better governance,” he said.
Anil Netto, president, Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran) said that Fahmi does not deserve such treatment from the authorities for his satirical artwork.
“The authorities should have clear and consistent criteria and standard procedures for any kind of action taken against individuals being investigated, lest these authorities lose credibility and respect in the eyes of the public.
“They should be instructed on the basic right to freedom of speech and of expression and the various forms it can take,” Anil said.
He said the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and the police human rights module – launched last week – would come in handy in such a situation.
Developed in 2018, the module is an initiative to strengthen the understanding and training of police officers in domestic and international human rights standards.
The module included international standards of human rights and policing; prohibition of discrimination; special needs of disabled detainees, women and children; as well as application of human rights principles in detention, arrest and the use of force and firearms.
Other parts of the module consisted of cruel and inhumane punishment that disregarded one’s dignity as well as prohibition of torture.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT