Performances Should Not Be Censored by City Council

Proposer:

Bilqis Hijjas

Affiliations:

ReformARTsi

Policy Code:

2a Freedom of Expression

Problem Statement / Issue:

In Kuala Lumpur, live stage performances (in theatre, dance, music, etc) are required to procure an entertainment license from Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur, according to the Entertainment (Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur) Act 1992. This requirement allows DBKL to restrict the content of the performances, including style of costume, and treatment of themes including politics, sexuality, and race. The license is granted at the sole discretion of the Commissioner.

Performances without a license can attract a fine of RM10,000-50,000 or imprisonment up to five years. License applications also require a hefty deposit (RM10,000 for local productions, RM30,000 with international performers); productions which violate DBKL guidelines after receiving a license are liable to lose their deposit.

However, the performance guidelines are vague, broad and arbitrarily enforced. Thus, Malaysian artists performing in Kuala Lumpur are likely to self-censor their artistic content above and beyond the requirements, to avoid penalties.

Value(s) and Belief(s):

We believe that this licensing system puts an undue burden upon local artists, restricts their creative capacity, and severely limits freedom of expression. It robs Kuala Lumpur of the rich and vibrant artistic culture which should be enjoyed by such a large, multicultural, cosmopolitan metropolis.

Proposal of Solution and Call to Action:

The Entertainment (Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur) Act 1992 should be amended, following consultation with a broad range of stakeholders including artists and representatives of civil society. Ideally, the Act should be repealed in its entirety; any oversight of the content of artistic performances in Kuala Lumpur should be enforced through othe means already at the government’s disposal. If not repealed, then the Act should be amended so that the Commissioner is not given sole discretion to grant or revoke licenses: a responsive and transparent system of appeals should be instituted which includes stakeholders as an equal voice in the decision-making process. The requirement for deposits should be abolished or the amount of deposit substantially reduced. The guidelines and process of granting licenses should be made clear and explicit, through townhall discussions and city council publications.

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