S’pore resists calls to liberalize parts of censorship rules

September 30, 2010
Singapore Democrats

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Chun Han Wong

Dow Jones News

Singapore has resisted calls from a government-appointed panel to liberalize parts of its censorship regime, such as ending a symbolic 100-website ban and easing rules on distributing R-rated films, a government minister said Wednesday.

The government wants to increase content choices for adults, but prevailing societal values need to be upheld, said Lui Tuck Yew, acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts.

That means the government will still block access to 100 pornographic and extremist websites, and continue banning sales of R-rated videos and screenings of such films at cinemas in public residential districts, Lui said at a news conference.

“We should move with, rather than ahead of, society,” he said, adding that the panel’s public survey found that 67% of respondents wanted to keep or expand the website ban.

Lui was responding to recommendations made earlier this month by the Censorship Review Committee, which had urged the government to let the public make “more informed media choices for themselves, and for their children.”

Singapore places tough rules on media content that government censors deem objectionable, including bans on songs said to refer to drug use and magazines such as Playboy, and a strict licensing program for performance arts.

The committee had called for the relaxation of some rules, in line with the Southeast Asian country’s recent rebranding efforts–liberalizing its staid, prudish image to portray itself as a cosmopolitan regional hub.

In 2005, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong suggested the country could emulate the economic success of Las Vegas, saying: “We don’t want to become Las Vegas, but we should learn from their spirit.”

The government accepted many of the committee’s recommendations, such as allowing R-rated films to air on pay television channels via video-on-demand, and a new PG13 movie rating.

However, the government refused to budge on some restrictions.

The website ban will be kept as “a symbolic statement of our society’s values, ” Lui said, adding that internet service providers will be asked to “actively market” content filters to users.

Asked if the retention of certain bans reflected the continuation of government paternalism, Lui said it didn’t.

“I don’t believe that retaining (a ban on) 100 websites shows that we are nannified,” Lui said.

He noted that the U.S. and Australia implement wider bans on undesirable websites.

“Nobody calls them a nanny state.”

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