Malaysian cartoonist Fahmi Reza is under investigation by the police for defamation against Health Minister Dr Adham Baba, probably as a result of a cartoon he realised last year. The police summoned him for interrogation at the Putrajaya district headquarters on 10 March and he emerged free.
In an interview with the Malay Mail newspaper, Putrajaya district police chief Assistant Commissioner Mohd Fadzil Ali, explained that the police investigation was relating to a cartoon published in October 2020 on the cartoonist’s social networks, depicting Health Minister Dr Adham Baba in a setting reminiscent of a research notice and entitled “Hilang”, which means “missing” in Malay. He also confirmed that the investigation was opened under Section 500 of the Malaysian Penal Code on defamation, punishable with up to two years’ imprisonment and a fine, as well as under Section 223 of the Communication and Multimedia Act. In May 2020, Pen International’s Malaysian office had denounced the abusive use of Section 223 to silence dissenting voices in the press and on social networks.
Reza posted his summons, sent by the police the day before his interrogation, on his Instagram account, explaining that he did not know which cartoons were incriminated. The cartoonist assumes that it is both the October 2020 cartoon, mentioned by the chief Assistant Commissioner, and another publication from February 2021.
The defamation investigation is still ongoing and there was no mention of legal proceedings to date. Cartooning for Peace is following the progress of this investigation, hoping that it will soon be closed.