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Queen Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah
Queen Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Image: MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images
Freedom of SpeechAsia

Malaysian artist held over 'insulting' Spotify playlist

April 24, 2021

The activist Fahmi Reza got in trouble over a playlist named after a remark the queen is believed to have recently made. The monarch called critics "jealous" after she reportedly jumped the queue for a COVID vaccine.


Malaysian police arrested an artist on Friday for allegedly insulting the queen by posting a satirical playlist online.

The playlist riffed off a recent controversy over the royal family and coronavirus vaccines. 

The artist was detained for uploading a playlist featuring a portrait of the queen and songs that included the word "jealously," senior police official Huzir Mohamed said in a statement.

Spotify censored the playlist and deleted it repeatedly, according to Fahmi Reza.

He said on Twitter that he then uploaded it to Apple Music.

What are the details of the case?  

Fahmi was being investigated for breaking Malaysia's sedition and communications laws. He faces up to three years if convicted under the act, Huzir said.        

"Tough action will be taken without any compromise against anyone who intentionally threatens public security," the police official added. 

The artist is set to be released later on Saturday, according to media reports citing his lawyers. 

Fahmi is best known for a cartoon depicting former Prime Minister Najib Razak as a clown, which became a symbol of protest in 2018.

Activist and artist Fahmi Reza (R) and his friend mount a caricature poster depicting Najib with a clown face ahead of a rally in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Fahmi's cartoon became a symbol of protest before Razak's scandal-hit regime lost power in 2018Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Ismail

Why is the playlist 'insulting'?  

According to local media reports, allegations that members of the royal family have received coronavirus vaccines through their connections in the United Arab Emirates sparked backlash.

Queen Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah reportedly responded to online criticism saying, "are you jealous?"  

The Instagram account, where the comment was reportedly made, was briefly deactivated and did not have the remarks when reinstated. 

Malaysia's royal family is widely revered. Those deemed to have insulted royalty are often punished. 

What about freedom of expression?  

Fahmi's arrest prompted concerns over the worsening state of freedom of expression in Malaysia. Several rights groups condemned his arrest.

Activists gathered in front of the police headquarters on Saturday morning in solidarity with Fahmi, journalist Norman Goh said on Twitter.  

Amnesty International Malaysia 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, referring to Malaysia's Sedition Act and Communications and Multimedia Act.

In 2018, Fahmi was jailed for a month over the ex-prime minister's cartoon.

fb/mm (AFP, Reuters)

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