Censorship

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Censorship
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Malaysia is an Asian country which mostly practices Islam. Its languages are Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil.

Although this country might have been famous for a progressive leader, Malaysia is still heavily conservative when it comes to censorship considering that most of the population is Muslim. This worsened in the 2010s as the conservative extremists, became more vocal and started gaining favors with the government. While the Barisan Nasional government would be overthrown in the 2018 general elections, they managed to pull a coup and clawed their way back into power in 2020.

General censorship[]

Under subsection 48(3) and (4) of the Penang Islamic Religious Administration Enactment 2004, non-Muslims in Peninsular Malaysia are unfairly penalised for using the following words, or to write or publish them, in any form, version or translation in any language or for use in any publicity material in any medium: "Allah", "Firman Allah", "Ulama", "Hadith", "Ibadah", "Kaabah", "Qadhi'", "Illahi", "Wahyu", "Mubaligh", "Syariah", "Qiblat", "Haji", "Mufti", "Rasul", "Iman", "Dakwah", "Wali", "Fatwa", "Imam", "Nabi", "Sheikh", "Khutbah", "Tabligh", "Akhirat", "Azan", "Al Quran", "As Sunnah", "Auliya'", "Karamah", "Syahadah", "Baitullah", "Musolla", "Zakat Fitrah", "Hajjah", "Taqwa" and "Soleh"

Pornography of any kind is strictly banned in Malaysia. Sex and nude scenes are strictly disallowed by the censors.

Books censorship[]

  • Sapuman: Man of Steal - this comic book by satire cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, known by his pen name Zunar, was banned due to featuring illustrations of Prime Minister Najib Razak and allegations surrounding 1 Malaysia Development Berhad, was banned in Malaysia, in fear that the book "could damage national interest." His other books, "Gedung Kartun", "1 Funny Malaysia", "Isu Dalam Kartun" (volumes one, two and three), "Conspiracy to Imprison (former deputy premier) Anwar", "Perak Darul Kartun (on corruption and abuse of power)" and "Pirates of Carry-BN (Barisan Nasional)", were also banned.
  • Belt and Road Initiative for Win Winism - this comic by "Superman Hew" was banned from printing, importing, reproducing, publishing, selling, or distributing (even including to the schools) in Malaysia, applying even to Chinese, English and Malay language versions of the book. Even owning the book in Malaysia is not allowed there. The reason of the ban was that it was everything, but about China, as well featuring (probably) negative depictions of race of Malay peoples, and etc. But Malaysia probably doesn't wanted to risk to have diplomatic issues with China.
  • Contrary to what one might expect, Mein Kampf is available in major bookstores in Malaysia and can be found there, due to influences from the governments of the Arab states, of which Malaysia joined the coalition, OIC, in 1989.
  • Nudity in non-sexual contexts in magazines like National Geographic is censored. The censors achieve this by scribbling the offending parts with black markers and includes also images of artworks, such as Michelangelo's King David sculpture. The ban applies locally-printed Malaysian edition; imported versions are banned outright, unless they can be justified as "for research purposes". Some books are censored by removing entire pages.
  • Tantra: The Search for Ecstasy - banned due to its explicit drawings and images of sexual positions that contradicted the Islamic values.
  • Rebirth: Reform, Resistance, And Hope In New Malaysia - this book was banned for parodying (or insulting) the "Jata Negara Malaysia" symbol in negative way, as shown in its book cover.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels were banned or their explicit sexual content. The ban was placed after the film was banned 3 years after their release. Surprisingly enough, the fourth book, Grey is not banned.
  • US Acres - any strip featuring Orson (who is a pig) has him edited out.

Movie censorship[]

The rating system for movies shown in Malaysian cinemas was introduced in 1996 and the classification system for approved films is as follows:

  • U (Umum/Universal: "General Audiences") - For general audiences. (Used by the majority of films screened in Malaysia until 2008 but it continues only for television, notably for RTM.)
  • P13 (Penjaga 13 : "Parental Guidance 13") - Parental guidance required for audiences under the age of 13. (Introduced in 2006, this became the official Malaysian motion picture rating system in 2008. The "PG-13" rating was revised to "P13" from April 2012 onwards to emphasize the use of Malay language instead of English.) (Passionate kissing scenes are not allowed under a P13 rating)
  • 18SG (Seram, Ganas: "Graphic Violence and Horror/Terror") - Film may contain strong violence, gore or horror/terror people may find objectionable.
  • 18SX (Seks: "Sexual Content") - Film may contain sex scenes, nudity or sexual dialogue/references people may find objectionable (despite scenes of sex and nudity being strictly censored off by the LPF)
  • 18PA (Politik, Agama: "Strong Religious or Political Elements") - Film may contain elements which include religious, social or political aspects people may find objectionable. (Rarely used)
  • 18PL (Pelbagai: "Various") - Film may contain strong violence, gore, horror/terror, sex scenes, nudity, sexual dialogues/references, religious, social or political aspects people may find objectionable. (The majority of the 18+ movies use this rating. For example, a film with sex scenes and strong violence will be classified as 18PL.) (despite scenes of sex and nudity being strictly censored off by the LPF)

The four 18 categories are now superseded by the simplified 18 rating, which makes no distinction on what type of objectionable content is contained within the movie. Films with an 18 rating are only restricted for audiences age 18 and above.

  • Any Hebrew and Yiddish-language films and film from Israel are not allowed to be shown in Malaysian cinemas due to the government of Malaysia not recognising Israel, instead being favourable for Palestine's recognition (due to the Gaza Strip crisis). Even, if said movie is dubbed in Malay.

An exception to this rule is Wonder Woman, despite the fact that the lead actress Gal Gadot is Israeli and was a former Israeli Defence Forces soldier. However, this is mostly due to a loophole (the movie was produced by Warner Bros, an American company).

  • The Prince of Egypt - this film was banned upon initial release, being released as direct-to-video and pay-per-view television when the ban was rescinded in 2001. Later the cinematic release was allowed to show when one local theme park plays it regularly in their in-park cinema as well as on video monitors throughout the park in heavy rotation.
  • Abominable - this film was informally banned due to the display of an offending map. Malaysia, who is also one of the Southeast Asian countries have territorial disputes with China over the maritime claims on the South China Sea and fresh from a similar dispute with Singapore (over an islet in the South China Sea which Singapore claims was sold to them by the Sultan of Johor, while Malaysia argued that the sale is null and void because the sultan of the states do not have the capacity to sell or repurpose land without federal government approval.), initially opted for cutting out the scene of the Nine-Dash Line. However, later, the distributor decided that the movie would not shown instead, resulting in its informal ban. Eventually, the movie would be finally available on streaming services with the offending scene cut in late 2020.

Moreover, many films are edited or banned in Malaysia to appease the country's large and influential Muslim population

  • Any family film featuring pigs is likely to cause an outrage among Muslims, who see these animals as filthy scavengers, whether they are used for food or not. In past times, this led to temporary or partial bans (that is, a film may be delayed for months or it will be forced to go direct-to-video).
    • Both Babe films had their release delayed for several months, while the parties hashed this one out, with the first film going straight to VHS (although several budget cinemas managed to get the reels for the first film and screen the film for several days albeit keeping things low-profile), while the second film had a much shorter run compared to other markets. Charlotte's Web nearly got the axe as well, but it was released on time.
  • Islamic tradition also prohibits the visual depiction of the religion's prophets; usually this is thought of Muhammad, but even Jesus is considered a prophet in Islam, thus, any Christian film depicting Jesus would be controversial as well. In the 1990s, such films were banned, since then, The Passion of Christ would be screened only to non-Muslims, even to the point of doing ID checks in the theater to make sure. This hasn't been consistent.
    • For said reason, Darren Aronofsky's Noah was banned for depicting Noah, who is also a prophet according to Islam.
    • Bruce Almighty - this film, whose premise is of a man who becomes God for a day (and depicts God as an Almighty Janitor played by Morgan Freeman), was almost banned in Malaysia due to Muslims protesting the movie. Strangely, no other religious or secular group considered the film offensive to any religion, which paved the way for the screening of the unedited film. Its spinoff, Evan Almighty had a similar fate, despite apparently depicting a Muslim prophet.
    • OMG, Oh My God! - this 2012 Indian comedy film about a shopkeeper suing God (depicted as a human) after the destruction of the store in a tornado, was banned in Malaysia because of its depiction of God as a flawed human being.
  • Macabre - this movie was banned in Malaysia for its excessive violent content.
  • Borat - initially banned due to its coarse humor, the ban was lifted in 2018, when Pakatan Harapan, the progressive opposition took over in 2018, giving the green light to the screening of the film on several Malaysian streaming sites. The sequel, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm was allowed through uncut.
  • Schindler's List - its edited release was refused screening on request of Steven Spielberg, since a key point of the film was its Zionist theme. It was not until a decade later that film later was released only on DVD. Munich, another Steven Spielberg film about the Holocaust, suffered the same fate as Schindler's List in Malaysia.
  • Zoolander - banned due to one of its key plot points about the assassination of the fictional Prime Minister of Malaysia (which is what the protagonists try to prevent) and its depiction of an impoverished and sweatshop-fuelled Malaysia. The neighbouring Singapore banned the film as well just to lift the ban five years later. The sequel, however, is not banned in Malaysia as it has little to do with the country. The ban has been lifted as of 2016, when the first film was available on several legit online streaming services.
  • Brokeback Mountain - this film was originally thought as never seeing the light of the day in Malaysia due to its homosexual themes. However, it seemed that in mid-2017, the ban on the movie has been lifted after several high-ranking foreign powers accused the government of Malaysia of being hostile towards LGBT people, with the former replying "No, we aren't" unbanning the movie as a "proof" that the government of Malaysia did had nothing against LGBT people. As a result, the film is available on several online streaming services in Malaysia.
  • Saw - the last few films of this series were not released in Malaysia due to excessive violence.
  • Sin City - this film was banned for brutal violence and explicit sexual content.
  • Daredevil - this film was initially banned due to violence, but has been released as home video.
  • Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me - this movie was banned due crude humor, but eventually was allowed to be broadcast on satellite TV and later, released on home video.
  • American Pie - this film trilogy was initially banned due to sexual content: However, it was eventually released on DVD. The fourth movie, American Reunion, was initially banned from broadcast from satellite TV, with the Malaysian feed of HBO being forced to replace it with a completely different movie. Eventually, the movie was released direct-to-DVD to be banned later without reason.
  • Homerun - this Singaporean film was banned for political reasons, as it is a satire on the relations between Malaysia and Singapore in 1965, when both countries split up.
  • Platoon - this film was banned due to excessive profanity and violence. Later, it was allowed to be released on DVD.
  • The 40-Year-Old-Virgin - this film was banned for sexual content, but was finally re-released straight to DVD, to later be banned without a good reason, and to be finally unbanned again, thanks to several legit streaming services now authorized to offer the show.
  • Cannibal Holocaust was banned on its initial release
  • Curiously, Independence Day: Resurgence was not banned in Malaysia, even if it had a scene where the Petronas Twin Towers, a landmark of the country, are dropped onto the Tower Bridge in London when the entire planed is pulverised beyond repair.
  • The Beauty and the Beast (2017) - this film was originally approved for screening by the censor board after the controversial LeFou's gay kiss scene was cut for the reels meant to be screened in Malaysia. However, the Malaysian branch of Disney decided to not release the film in the country, demanding that the movie either be screened uncut in the country or that the movie would not be released in Malaysia at all. After ensuing outcries, Disney demanded a re-revaluation. The Malaysian government, finding out that the film was smashing box-offices overseas and the amount of potential "entertainment tax" (which in the southeastern Asian country is imposed on cinema-goers money with every film ticket sold) they were missing out, the film board allowed the film to be screened uncut, accompained by a PG-13 rating.
  • Power Rangers (2017) - Following the example mentioned above, this film was also destined to the censor board due to Trini Kwan (the Yellow Ranger played by Becky G) being a lesbian. However, after many laments and anger from the public, the board left the film be, being screened in full. However, when the "Mighty Morphin" was reinstated to the title, this caused protests from parents who thought that the "morphin" section would drive children to do drugs, forcing Malaysia to pick up the UK version, which has the "Mighty Morphin" from the title omitted due to similar reasons cited.
  • The Hustle - this film was quietly banned for "morality issues" by the national film board in 2019 and some information was hushed from the Malaysians, made easier after Abominable was banned, foreshadowing the banning of The Hustle. However, the film now is scheduled to undergo re-evaluation and estimated to be released in early 2020 after the director of the film board was fired after complaints over banning movies against Pakatan Rakyat's no-censorship policy, and caught having a conflict of interest (that is, supporting local conservative streaming services and using his power to cripple Netflix and other liberal services, as well as forcing Barisan Nasional's conservative view on the public).
  • Garfield and Friends had all of its US Acres segments cut from the late 90s onward due to the main character being a pig. Said segments are usually replaced by a "Garfield" segment from an older epsiode of the show.

TV censorship[]

Main article: Southeast Asia TV censorship

Until 1994, owning a TV in Malaysia required a license. When handheld TVs were introduced, they were immediately banned in the country due to the fear of the government that they would be used to watch TV without a license (back then, Malaysia wasn't apt in technology propaganda and didn't have the "TV detector vans" like those present in Singapore and in the United Kingdom). The ban was lifted in 1994 once the government declared TV ownership as a right and TV broadcasts as a utility, retiring the license system. In a twist of irony, the license also covered radio, but the government wasn't concerned about people owning walkmans and handheld transistor radios who did not have a license.

  • Jerry Springer Show - pulled off air after one episode due to depraved content.
  • Ally McBeal - The episode "The Queen Bee" was banned in Malaysia due to its premise of a woman of the choir singing offensive songs during the religious function after she had an affair with the reverend. However, the episode "Angels and Blimps", where a child hires Ally's firm to sue God for crashing a nearby blimp, injuring him, was not banned.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers - while this show was not banned (even if some episodes are withheld from broadcast), censors refused to have the word "Morphin'", due to the outcry from parents that the word "Morphin'" was closer to "morphine" and would convince young viewers to use drugs. The title was initially restored in the 2017 reboot film (see "Movie censorship"), only to be ditched again due to the parents' protests.
  • A documentary on the MH370 plane crash was first thought to be banned from screening on the Malaysian feed of the National Geographic channel. National Geographic later stated that the documentary produced only for the UK market and not intended for screening in the rest of the world, including Malaysia. However, many Malaysian expatriates in the UK who saw the documentary say that it states some rather controversial theories which nonetheless would get it banned from Malaysia. Additionally, a leak of the documentary onto YouTube was taken down just ten minutes after its posting.
  • Gruff's Groove Box - this show was banned due to having the misfortune of being launched in Malaysia a day before the death of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (literally, "He who is Made Lord", the King of Malaysia) and playing upbeat music was outlawed for a month after the king's death. Even in the countries it could air was never well-received anyway, being cancelled within the same month. Nickelodeon now pretends it doesn't exist, and there's no way it will even be seen in Malaysia.
  • Coverage of the Bersih protests in 2011 on the BBC World News network was partially blacked out in Malaysia. After it was revealed about the blackout, it was found that Astro, the satellite TV provider blacked out the channel themselves on purpose, despite this being against their terms of their contract with The BBC. The provider then claimed they had to do it to appease the censors, angering the BBC.
  • On the same day, Astro also misteriously dropped BBC Entertainment Asia from its channel line-up, replacing it with ITV Granada after an episode of Top Gear, where Jeremy Clarkson smashed up a Perodua Kancil, a car from one of the two leading national car firms. Astro denied having banned, stating that the channel had nothing new to offer, which sounds very peculiar for a network which airs award-winning Doctor Who, and was in the middle of a new season when the channel was dropped. The network was unavailable until a rival Pay TV provider would pick up the channel two years later, with Top Gear being moved to its sister channel, BBC Knowledge, coincidently, after Perodua announced the retirement of the Kancil car line. Local fans of BBC and its shows speculate that there is some foul play going on. The car-smashing episode did not stop a terrestrial station from airing the show though, or Malaysian versions of the magazine from being printed (although undoubtly, the articles in the magazine are censored and any article criticizing local cars, such as the ones produced by Perodua and Proton, are removed).
  • Doctor Who - The season 10 was thought to be banned due to the Doctor's female companion, Pearl Mackie, was portrayed to be a lesbian. However, the show is available uncut on the BBC Player service, but is delayed three weeks, with any questionable scene cut before being made available on the BBC First Video-on-Demand service.
  • South Park - Two providers carry Comedy Central, one blocks this series, replacing it with other shows, while the other not only shows it with minimal edits, but also advertises the fact that it's the only carrier to show South Park in Malaysia. Some episodes can be even found on DVD in certain video outlets in the country.
  • Family Guy - this show was banned after complaints from some Muslim viewers. The ban has since been lifted, but the episodes are heavily cut and can only be viewed on satellite TV as the terrestrial channel that aired the show refuses to carry it anymore.
  • Huxley Pig and Wibbly Pig were refused broadcast on the Malaysian feed of CBeebies for reasons unknown. However, they air Big Barn Farm and Tilly and Friends, both containing pigs as supporting characters, uncut in the country.
  • Peppa Pig - This show is aired by Nick Jr. and a group of parents and educators even demanded it to appear there. However, the show was scheduled in a timeslot which could be unwatchable by the show's demographics (that is, during kindergarten hours). Nick Jr. refuses to show Toot & Puddle, but airs its spinoff, Olivia instead. It is also not showing Peppa on the dedicated Nick Jr channel but only on the Nick Jr segment of the main Nickelodeon channel.


Internet censorship[]

As of 2011, the Malaysian government blocks access to any websites it feels contains illegal content per Malaysian law. Ironically, this has the effect of superseding a "Bill of Guarantees" and other legislation generally granting Internet access as a right. However, every time the government has tried to go further (such as a 2014 proposal to implement something similar to China's "Great Firewall"), public outcry led them to back down. Pu As of 28 January 2014 many political sites have been blocked by the Malaysian government. Internet users will encounter a blue and black box with "This website is not available in Malaysia as it violates the National law" announcement. When users try to resolve the IP address of those domain, they will get back a IP address provided by TM [175.139.0.0/16].

  • Internet censorship notice in Malaysia.

    According to an independent inquiry, over 6500 websites pertaining to online gambling, pornography, or criticism of the (former) government have been blocked. Internet freedom increased after the 2018 elections where the Barisan Nasional Government was unseated by the Pakatan Harapan Coalition after 61 years of rule, but unravelled when the Barisan Nasional Government pulled a coup, forcing their way back into power (with help of the traitorous BERSATU party).
  • In 2014, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad tried to convince the government to ban Facebook. However, he backed down due to public outcry, and the government assured the populace that they wouldn't ban it. Strangely, the reason for Mahathir wanting Facebook to be banned was that it wouldn't let him post a link to his website, due to this being hosted in the Cocos Islands, notorious for hosting scam sites. Four years later, Facebook became one of the reasons why his newly formed political coalition won the 2018 general elections.
  • The former government blocked independent news site The Sarawak Report for its criticism of the government and for exposing corruption. The site defied the ban by mirroring its content on blogging site medium.com, who refused to stop them — getting banned in Malaysia itself. However the ban was lifted after the despotic Najib regime was overthrown in the 2018 elections.
  • fanfiction.net - blocked after a group of moral guardians made a petition to block the site on the grounds of containing objectionable material. This backfired as block was enforced without any act-checking by the body whatsoever, as well as there was not any referendum held to gage public opinion, which in turn angered local fanfiction writers and educators, who started a counter-petition calling for the unbanned of the site. However, unlike Medium, the ban of the site was never lifted after the despotic Najib regime was overthrown, due to a petition behind it. All ISPs block access to "in-the-clear" email servers, ostensibly to stop spammers and scammers.
  • All ISPs block access to "in-the-clear" email servers, ostensibly to stop spammers and scammers.
  • Tumblr used to be blocked in Malaysia due to the sheer amount of NSFW content on the site. The ban was lifted when Tumblr restructured, declared that such content are no longer allowed, and purged them from the site.
  • Peer-to-peer clients like BitTorrent tend to fail to connect to peers from outside the country on many ISPs, making it a hassle for those who have a valid use for such networks, such as updating Starcraft II.
  • After the corrupt government that Najib Razak was previously part of pulled a coup and forcefully came back into power in early 2020, the censorship resumed. This time, using IP black-holing, that is, using an alternative DNS no longer works. As of early 2021 most major pornography and online gambling sites, including PornHub, are once again no longer accessible short of using a VPN.
  • In 16 February 2021, The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has banned the access to Sugarbook website and its app on Malaysia. It is understood that the website violated Section 233 of the Multimedia and Communications Act 1998 for improper use of network facilities or network service, and its supposed bad influence among Malaysian peoples. However, it turned out that the Sugarbook developer has set up an alternative site to enable its Malaysian users to access the blocked webpage. Rightfully, many are angered by this move along by the reenaction of internet censorship, not because they support prostution, but because it sets a dangerous precident of the country going back into censorship and blocking the flow of information and free speech.
  • Itooks like that the corrupt government are trying to ban the use of Tor, as the Tor browser will intermittently report inability to link up to the Tor network even with bridges that worked the night before. However, as Tor is a decentralized network, expect this to be a futile attempt. that inconveniences the users into changing bridges very frequently.

Video games censorship[]

Electronic gambling (such as slot machines) are available only for certain "limited premises", the only being Genting Highlands. Anyone can read news about illegal electronic gambling parlors being raided by the police every week. It is even impossible to acquire a license, as the government outright refuses to issue further licenses.

Arcade licenses, however, are more lenient, but the police has power to raid arcades, revoke licenses, confiscate all the machines at the premises and shut the business down if it finds even a single gambling machine, enforced through tip-offs. Arcades can get around this by two means:

  • Using machines that do not pay out cash, but rather tokens, tickets or prizes, which are not strictly regulated (or, how the Malaysian government puts it, "as long as it doesn't involve paying out real money, it's not gambling".)
  • Modifying a gambling machine to look like a regular arcade machine (which does not end well for the arcade).

In 2001, the Malaysian government tried to ban machines as a whole, due to students skipping school, for arcade parlors being gathering place for delinquents and gangsters as well for being addictive, adding to all the negative press from arcades that disguised their gambing machines to look like legal arcade machines. However, the ban only lasted several weeks, as many arcades found a loophole by starting to include claw machines, kiddie rides, and small fairground rides on their premises, leading them to being reclassified as "amusement parks".

  • Fight Of Gods - this game had the "honor" of being the first video game banned in Malaysia since Postal, as various religious leaders asked its ban for being disrespectful to religion as whole. Games did not took well this decision, inviting backlash. The Malaysian government blocked Steam entirely when Valve did not answer to their emails, 4 hours after Valve quietly removed the game from the Malaysian store. While most people claimed that their Steam library was not blocked and they still could get to their already downloaded games, those who were in the midst of reformatting their PC, were locked out of getting the Steam installer, which locked them out of their bought games. Moreover, there were reports that those using the Steam Mobile App for two-factor authentication were also locked out as they couldn't launch the app to validate their login on their PC, also locking them out of their games. The ban was lifted at noon on the next day, but the MCMC refused to acknowledge their mistake. threatening Valve to block Steam again if they should allow anyone who try to publish games like these in Malaysia again, as well as threatening to jail and fine gamers who dare to try to import the game. This, combined with the insult and mockery Malaysian gamers were subject to from gamers from other countries. This is widely believed to be a factor that caused the corrupt Najib regime to be toppled in the next general election.
  • Grand Theft Auto - the games from this series were often banned during the Muhammed Idris due to the violence and the sexual contents present in the games. As internet was young at the time, however, the ban did not affect digital copies, with people still getting the games on Steam.
  • Postal - this series of games is banned from being sold in stores due to accusations of over-the-top violence. However, the ban applies only to the physical releases, meaning that it can still be bought on Steam.
  • Fate/Grand Order - the game's publisher decided to not release it to Malaysia at last minute in 2018, before advertising that the game would not be sold in Malaysia.
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