Censorship is Sometimes Needed

Sirikit Syah

The Language and Literature Bureau’s workshop on censorship held recently couldn’t be more correct. In time of globalization and information super highway like now, somebody must take the role to protect the values of culture and religion in one’s place. Too much freedom will ruin you, eventually. Take a look at what happens now in many so-called free countries: underage sexual conducts, pregnancy out of wed locks, marriages between same gender, and sexual-related crimes, which all are in high and inclining percentage.

All those might be influenced by the free media, be it print media, broadcast, or online. Censorship is always perceived by the so-called free thinkers as oppressing people’s mind and imposing certain values. In particular, people from liberal countries keep on criticizing us in this region, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, and Indonesia, for our tight censorship. They want to impose their values on us, which is freedom, while our ancestors –from different races and ethnicities- had lived together in harmony, by restraining individual freedom. If the people in liberal countries prioritize freedom, we –as inherited by our ancestors- prioritize harmony; each with different kind of consequence. No one has the right to undermine another.

Our authority worries that publication containing pornographic or licentious contents can disrupt individual’s moral values, and should therefore be censored. Perhaps in western way of thinking, this is a violation to freedom of expression, but we know that not every expression is worth reading or worth knowing.

In fact, sometimes those who criticize us also practice a double standard when they impose censorship in a different way, such as what happened to singers and film makers who opposed the war on terrorism and the implementation of Patriot Act. A musical album was not aired in the biggest radio network in the US (Clear Channel), and actors are canceled filming (Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon). Movies like The Passion (Mel Gibson) and Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore) were marginalized from mainstream cinema theaters. The Passion portraits the Jews unfavorably: betrayed Christ and provoked punishment to Christ; while Fahrenheit 9/11 presents the business relationship between Osama Bin Laden’s family with the Bush family. Lucky enough, those discriminated have succeeded as two most successful independent movies in 2004. Not only they reached vast audience, they also received praises and awards, at home and internationally.

FCC (Federal Communication Commission), a US federal institution governing broadcast and telecommunication, also imposed a dress code for live air broadcast, following the incident of Janet’s Jackson loose bra at the Super Bowl in 2004. It created anger and frustration among broadcasters. Given this examples, even in the US censorship is imposed, one way or another. In South East Asian region, Indonesia is obviously the freest country in terms of loose regulation on mass media and broadcast programming. Last April, Playboy magazine won its case in court against Moslem protesters of its publication. On obscene publication and broadcast, the media industry is conveniently protected by the Law, that states that the government shall not banned any publication, unless it is brought into trial.

But Indonesia is experiencing an increasing number of sexual-related crimes, including those done by and to children. Several underage sexual crimes suspects admitted -when interrogated- to be influenced by the media contents they consume, on TV or online. Parents now look at the neighbor, Singapore, which is said to put censorship device in computers at internet cafes/centers, so that youth cannot get access to pornography as easily.

In Brunei Darussalam, censorship is not implemented only for content of obscenity and pornography. Publications that are in conflict with the teachings of Islam or the country’s philosophy, Melayu Islam Beraja, are also subject to censorship. This doesn’t mean restricting or putting limitation to information. Citizens still have freedoms to choose what they want to read or browse in the internet. Censorship that is implemented to limited issues, with good reasons, could help citizens to broaden their minds, enrich their knowledge, without jeopardizing their moral values and country’s ideology.

June, 2007
The Brunei Times

Perihal LKM Media Watch
Mass media are watchdogs. But who watch the media? Let's do it together. Watch this very powerful entity, for better journalism, better Indonesia, better world. http://www.sirikitsyah.wordpress.com

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