Malaysian Home Ministry and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) are working on setting up a firewall on websites to prevent contents that do not comply with the country’s Film Censorship Board’s guidelines to reach its citizens.
Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the firewall on websites, which includes famous video-sharing site – YouTube, was a vital move to ensure content from the Internet could fit in the local culture as well as sensitivity.
“We want to create awareness among the public, specifically film goers, that the censorship board has a social and religious responsibility to ensure movies adhere to set guidelines.
“Content creators have to make sure their content do not lead members of society out of social and religious norms,” he was quoted by The Malay Mail during the 60th anniversary of the censorship board on Sunday.
“We are working with MCMC on this matter and I urge the commission to implement the system soon,” he added.
When asked on the local produced film, The New Village, Ahmad Zahid said no decision has been made on whether the film will be screened or not.
“I have watched the film with senior officials from my ministry and members of the censorship board. As for now, the board has not made a final decision but from the findings there are hidden elements and dialogue which are not suitable for the audience,” he said.
Joint produced by Astro Shaw and Yellow Pictures, The New Village is directed by award-winning local director Wong Kew-Lit. The film tells the story about the resettlement of the Chinese communities into new villages by the British. It was banned by the censorship board July last year following a second review. The film, which was initially approved, was accused to have hidden message of glorifying the communists.
Other Banned Films
This year, Malaysian Film Censorship Board have also banned an action comedy film directed by Namewee – “Banglasia”. The movie starred by comedian Saiful Apek, Dato David Arumugam and female tattooist Kiniki was heavily criticized by the censorship board and the Home Ministry. It was said that the movie appears to mock the alleged country’s political phenomenon, which the director had denied. The film was officially banned and not allowed on YouTube.
Despite local produced films, the censorship board has not been any lenient on foreign produced movies too. In 2013, the board banned Indian-produced film, “Vishwaroopam” after it was screened for a day in local cinemas on January 24. It was said that the film had put Islam in a negative light. The ban was lifted early this year after several scenes were cut out.
In 2011, a famous American romantic comedy film starred by Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, “No Strings Attached” had been censored as much as seven minutes before it was allowed to be screened in local cinemas. The movie was said to contained excessive sexual and nude content.
Is content censorship vital for multi-racial country like Malaysia?
As the Home Minister put it, the censorship is vital to ensure inappropriate content will “not lead society out of social and religious norms”. While there is some truth in this, but looking at another perspective, does the minister have so little faith on the citizens’ intelligence?
A mature society is where its people are opened to different options and perspectives, and it is up to the society to decide which the best is for them. Perhaps, the Malaysian government should stop “spoon-feeding” what they want its citizens to know and start allowing some critical thinking. After all, with the Internet, Malaysians are exposed to many different principles, ideas, religions, beliefs, practices, and not to mention, various body parts.
Are Malaysians going to revolt and start acting like communists immediately after watching “The New Village”? Are Muslims going to immediately question their faith and convert to Christianity after watching “Noah”? Are we going to run around naked and have an orgy after watching “No Strings Attached”?
We won’t know our level of maturity and strength in our faith if we are being overprotected. And this is where our education system plays a supportive role as well, to educate and teach the young how to discern from right and wrong.
When you tell a child, “Don’t touch this toy,” chances are the child is going to want to touch that toy more than ever. So by telling citizens not to watch this particular movie, it’s very likely that curiosity will get the better of everyone and most people will now want to watch it and they will find all kinds of ways to get a copy of the movie.
While some censorship is acceptable for movies to be watched by adults with young kids, the Malaysian Film Censorship Board should also not be going on a ban rampage, banning every single movie or video on YouTube that they think will not keep us in line just to prevent us from thinking anything that they do not want us to think.