Wednesday. 27/4/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Paulius Staniunas

Opinion / Noor Amylia Hilda

Joking aside

Graphic artist Fahmi Reza is best known for his satirical illustrations of Malaysian political figures. “To laugh at people in power is how you can overcome fear,” he told me for a feature on comics challenging the status quo in Monocle’s February issue. Now he has once again found himself at the sharp end of the law – this time for a satirical image of Mojo Jojo, the villainous chimpanzee from 1990s cartoon series The Powerpuff Girls, in attire similar to those worn by Malay rulers.

It’s widely believed that the artwork is a riff on a painting by an anonymous artist that depicts Malaysian MPs as primates and frogs, which was recently purchased by the sultan of the Malaysian state of Selangor. The day after Reza (pictured) posted his image he was summoned under the country’s Sedition Act and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act – a law with which he is very familiar, having fallen foul of it several times in the past.

Earlier this month, Reza spent two days under arrest. A double standard seems to be at play: why was the anonymous artist whose work the sultan of Selangor acquired not summoned too? Reza posted a tongue-in-cheek statement on the issue: “If we can accept and not restrict satirical artworks that ‘make a monkey’ out of others, we should also be willing to accept and not restrict satirical artworks that ‘make a monkey’ out of us.” As is often the case with satire, it appears that gags are never as funny when they are at your expense. Meanwhile, the criminalisation of free speech in Malaysia is anything but a laughing matter.

Noor Amylia Hilda is a journalist and Monocle contributor based in Kuala Lumpur.

Image: Getty Images

Geopolitics / UN

Keeping the peace?

United Nations secretary-general António Guterres (pictured, on left, with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov) will hold talks with Ukraine’s leaders tomorrow as he increases diplomatic efforts to end the war with Russia. Guterres pushed Vladimir Putin for a ceasefire when the pair met yesterday in Moscow but has faced criticism over his handling of the crisis, not least because he travelled to Russia first. Ukraine’s government has accused the UN of “lagging behind” in its support and the UN Security Council has not passed a single resolution condemning Russia’s invasion. “Some of the criticism is justified,” says Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the UK’s former ambassador to the UN. “I certainly think that Mr Guterres should have travelled to Kyiv before he travelled to Moscow. The real problem is that the UN is not able to fulfil its role as a peacemaker in the conflict when Russia is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.”

Image: Alamy

Transport / Indonesia

Move in the right direction

A track-laying ceremony was held last week in West Java for Indonesia’s first high-speed rail line. Java is Indonesia’s main island and the 142km line will connect the capital, Jakarta, and the major city of Bandung. Trains capable of travelling up to 350km/h should cut more than two hours from existing intercity rail journeys and reduce car traffic along one of the archipelago’s most congested travel corridors.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo committed to the $8bn (€7.5bn) rail project with China in 2015. Though plagued by delays and cost overruns, the line will finally become operational next year and is likely to encourage greater investment outside of Jakarta. Spreading development across Indonesia is a key policy of Widodo. High-speed rail could achieve this goal far sooner than the president’s other grand vision to move the capital to an entirely different island.

Image: Alamy

Environment / Denmark

Knowledge economy

How environmentally friendly is your food? Countries around the world have been taking measures to achieve carbon neutrality and deliver the climate goals set at Cop26 but Denmark is taking an extra step to address the environmental footprint of the food we eat. The country’s Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries is launching a “climate label” so that Danes can make more environmentally conscious choices.

Similar information was available with meals at last year’s UN Climate Change Conference. And while nobody would want to replicate the notoriously grim food that delegates were served, any labelling that helps consumers to make considered choices should be welcomed. Denmark hopes to roll out the climate label before Christmas and, while the effect of some products, such as tropical fruit or imported meat, might be obvious, a little deft Danish design could help shoppers to make more informed decisions about what to buy.

Image: Niceair

Tourism / Iceland

Northern exposure

Iceland’s tourism boom has so far been most visible at the country’s main international airport at Keflavík, near the capital Reykjavík. But a new airline will soon start bringing more foreign tourists directly to the northern parts of the country. Niceair has announced that it will open its first international routes in June, from Akureyri, some 96km outside the Arctic Circle, to Copenhagen, Tenerife and London Stansted Airport. For passengers hoping to visit what is often referred to as the “capital of northern Iceland”, the new routes will save them a five-hour drive or a connecting flight at Keflavík. It’s not an easy time to launch a new airline, with the aviation industry struggling with surging fuel prices and staff shortages, but Niceair seems confident. It says that the new routes should improve the quality of life for northern Iceland’s residents and allow the region’s businesses to be more competitive.

Image: Cristiano Corte/British Council

Monocle 24 / Monocle on Culture

Venice Biennale Special

The world’s most prestigious art event is back in full force. Monocle’s Chiara Rimella and Alexis Self chat about their week in Venice, and how the Biennale has responded in times of conflict. Plus: we hear from some of the most talked-about artists at this year’s event, including Stan Douglas and Golden Lion winner Sonia Boyce.

Monocle Films / Global

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