Opposing Censorship in Malaysia

STRINGENT GUIDELINES EQUALS CENSORSHIP \"We KLites must be broadminded and liberal enough to accept such shows\" Datuk Bandar Datuk mohmad Shaid Mohd Taufik, Tuesday 22 July, 2003, Malay Mail We, the undersigned, are concerned at the erosion of civil liberties we see happening in Malaysia. We are deeply disturbed by the fact that Dewan Bandaraya KL (KL City Hall) has decided to enforce a series of guidelines that severely limits the growth of a vibrant arts community. We are also worried that the application of these guidelines, even though they are limited at the moment to the performing arts, could impact upon the growth of all forms of public expression and the arts: from film-making to visual arts to literature. This action by DBKL comes without any consultation or negotiation with the arts community. A committee was chosen by DBKL to act as moral guardians by giving them the power to decide what scripts are \"doubtful\" and should be rejected outright. It also has the power to censor performances as it sees fit. In addition most art practitioners learned about the guidelines, and the committee chosen to vet scripts, through articles in the local press. Transparency and openness seem to have been lost. This process impacts negatively on the aspirations for the art. In his 2003 Budget speech the Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad affirmed that the performing arts was an asset to the country\'s progressive and dynamic image and allocated RM 80.3 million to develop the arts. City Hall has shown itself to be out of step with the direction the nation is taking by its latest action. That it does not understand the maturity of Malaysia\'s audiences was clear from the public outcry in July 2003 when it attempted to ban the work of Instant Cafe Theatre. In response to the public debate the Mayor himself came out in support of the need for more progressive liberal attitudes saying, \"We KLites must be broadminded and liberal enough to accept such shows\". The Malaysian public has grown increasingly mature and willing to engage in debate and discussion. It is through speaking about our identity that we feel we belong

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