Monday, January 22, 2007

CIJ: Book banning: Extreme censorship

taken from CIJ website, 9 January 2007
The banning of books is a serious violation of freedom of expression. It should not be done at all, and never done lightly. It is thus distressing that the Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow implies that book bannings can be reversed or re-considered if there are complaints from distributors or importers. This implies firstly a lax attitude towards the banning of books, and second it puts the onus for action on book distributors, whereas the responsibility should lie with the Ministry to ensure that no frivolous bannings occur.

CIJ has learnt from local sources that Datuk Fu has responded to media coverage of banned or restricted books by saying that the Ministry has not received complaints about book banning from distributors. He further said that a meeting will be held with the distributors to discuss how the process of banning books can be made more transparent. While CIJ applauds the move to engage in consultation and improve openness within the Ministry, the underlying assumption that books must be banned is disconcerting.

It is also worrying that the Ministry is looking at making the banning process more streamlined, rather than reconsidering whether book banning is important, effective or consistent with Malaysia's aim of achieving Vision 2020 within the next decade and a half. When books are banned, ideas are removed from circulation. This stunts the ability of our students, academics and general public from dealing with controversial ideas, and assumes a paternalistic attitude that is not suited to a country with a high standard of educational achievement.

The Centre for Independent Journalism has, further, consistently condemned the banning of books, and with a group of over 100 individuals and 10 organizations had called for a repeal of the ban of 18 books banned in June 2006. The organization reiterates the call for an end to the banning of books and a repeal of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

The Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia (CIJ) is a media organization that aims to improve current Malaysian journalism practice and independence through advocacy, research and analysis, training and practical work. Started in 2001, CIJ has initiated various projects in developing grassroots communications skills through training, infrastructural support and direct action.


Issued by
Sonia Randhawa
Executive Director

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