Name: TV and Film Censorship in Malaysia

Date:  1995 - 2005

Location:  Asia

SubjectPolitical/Economic/Social Opinion

MediumFilm Video

Artist: Steven Spielberg, Kylie Minogue, Ben Stiller, etc.

Confronting Bodies: Film Censorship Board of Malaysia

Date of Action: Ongoing

Specific Location: Malaysia

Description of Artwork: Major Hollywood blockbusters: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, The Prince Of Egypt, Seven Years In Tibet, Schindler's List, Zoolander; Western TV shows, music videos, theater plays.

Description of Incident: Malaysia has some of the toughest censorship laws in the world, with television and film strictly vetted by the Board, which is under the authority of the Home Ministry. Film censors in the country have little tolerance over nudity, sex, strong language, violence or sensitive religious themes in films. Films are rated to guide audiences on the nature of the content, or banned outright if the material is considered inappropriate. Scenes of kissing are often cut from films and TV shows, while swearing is usually erased altogether in an effort to protect family values among Malaysian citizens. "In order for us to instil good morals and values in our people, we have to stop importing films that are not appropriate for our country," Board chairman Shaari Mohamad Noor commented, "We imposed the ban after viewing thousands of titles over the last five months." He added that the move was in line with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's call for Malaysians to "hold on to good values and preserve the family institution". The Ben Stiller comedy Zoolander earned itself a ban because of a plotline in which an assassination attempt is made on the Malaysian prime minister. Austin Powers was not swinging in the mainly Muslim country because the Censorship Board said The Spy Who Shagged Me contained too much sexual innuendo. Saving Private Ryan was allowed but with many violent scenes cut. Spielberg insisted the film be shown in full - and it still has not been seen in Malaysia. Schindler's List was banned for being sympathetic to Jews, though was later allowed through with several violent and nude scenes cut, to Spielberg's disgust. The Prince of Egypt film had been banned so as not to offend the country's majority Muslim population. Film Censorship Board chairman said: "We found it insensitive for religious and moral reasons. Because of the many races in Malaysia, religion is a very sensitive issue." A second run of the hit show The Vagina Monologues has been banned too. Authorities in the capital city Kuala Lumpur have ruled the show cannot return because of "complaints from a number of people. Other titles to be blacklisted included Ally McBeal episode The Queen Bee, and two editions of hit sitcom Friends - The Video Tape and But I'm A Cheerleader.

Results of Incident: Possession, distribution or the sale of banned titles in any form in Malaysia is punishable by a maximum 30,000 ringgit (£5,200) fine and three years in jail.


Submitted By: NCAC

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