Malaysian Audiences Should Be Empowered To Choose

By:

Bilqis Hijjas

Affiliations:

ReformARTsi

Policy Code:

2a Freedom of Expression

Problem Statement:

Artistic content in Malaysia (in live stage shows, printed material, social media and mass media, on the Internet, and film and music recordings) is regulated by a baffling array of legislation, including the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, Entertainment (Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur) Act 1992 and Film Censorship Act 2002. This legislation imposes profuse, shifting, sometimes conflicting and redundant, censorship of local artistic content. For local artists, the restrictions are burdensome to comprehend and often impossible to navigate. They force artists to create work that is only and always consumable by children; it is difficult to tackle mature themes addressing vital social issues.

These restrictions are often justified by the Malaysian government with the rhetoric that Malaysians are undeveloped/uneducated, cannot be trusted to think for themselves, and must be shielded from challenging ideas. At the same time, largely unrestricted international content is easily accessible to Malaysian consumers via the Internet.

Value(s) and Belief(s):

julia gartha beat of my own drum

Proposal of Solution:

All publicly-accessible artistic content in Malaysia should be regulated with content ratings (i.e. Parental Guidance 13, Mature Content 18, Restricted 21) established around a single set of clear and explicit guidelines. The ratings should be self-applied and made public by the artists involved, rather than requiring onerous and time-consuming licensing; penalties should be imposed only upon defaulters. This will allow local audiences to opt-in voluntarily with informed consent about the material that they consume. It will increase public confidence in consuming local performing arts, and support the local arts industry. It will also enable local artists and intellectuals to develop richer, more mature work of an international standard which targets particular audience segments.

Additional Information:

Translation

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