Banning books an extreme form of censorship
Centre for Independent Journalism
27C Jalan Sarikei, off Jalan Pahang
53000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03 4023 0772
Fax: 03 4023 0769
For Immediate Release
4 December 2006
*Banning books an extreme form of censorship*
The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is concerned about the Internal Security Ministry's Quranic Text and Publications Control department's arbitrary decision to let the Royal Customs Department prevent books from entering the country. Banning books is a severe act of censorship and limitation on freedom of expression. The manner in which it is currently handled indicates that the extent to which banning books infringes human rights and violates Article 10 of the Constitution is not appreciated by the Ministry or by Government departments.
Under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) the Internal Security Ministry can restrict or ban books which it claims threaten morality, public order, national security and national interest. According to spokespeople from Customs and the Internal Security Ministry, the power to decide which books should be banned has been placed in the hands of officials at customs checkpoints. The officers have the power to withhold books from entering the country, but they refer all decisions on permanently restricting the entry of 'suspicious' books to the Internal Security Ministry.
According to a local news report, book distributors have complained about these practices, and started compiling a record of the books that are refused entry, despite not being banned by the Internal Security Ministry. These include Chinua Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart' and 'Sea Sale: Spongebob Squarepants'.
Some of the banned books have been available at major bookstores for over three years. Restricting these books suggests growing intolerance of diversity of views. Limiting the number of viewpoints the public has access to hinders the aspiration to an open and mature society, as put forward by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
The banning of books is an extreme form of censorship, in violation of rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution. Further, this is being carried out in an arbitrary manner, lacking transparency and openness.
CIJ is concerned about the banning of all books, but is additionally worried that the government's process and decision to ban books are often reached in close manner.
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.
For more information please call Advocacy Officer Wai Fong at 03 4023 0772