Saturday, November 7, 2009

ST Insight: Censorship Review Committee thoughts

The Straits Times Insight published a paragraph of my opinions on the issues surrounding the Censorship Review Committee. Here is the full email sent:

I favour liberalisation of our media with regards to the Censorship Review Committee.

First and foremost, I would like whoever is behind censorship to stop being overzealous in their jobs.

It is important too, on the backdrop of a growingly stratified and diverse Singapore, not helped by moral polarisation, that the CRC should evaluate the relevance of definitions such as "public interest". If they can humbly sort out previously vague definitions of the censorship regime, they will be able to move towards a more transparent and unambiguous set of codes.

The CRC should also be aware of the changing media landscape. They should not only preoccupy themselves with advancements in information communication technology, but also the reality that our population is growingly media literate, savvy and information-seeking. That said, our censorship regime should always diligently work towards being relevant and consistent with our society.

Censorship may not always solve everything, as the total removal of allegedly offensive material may result in the absence of related dialogue, a characteristic key in any mature society and knowledge-based economy.

The CRC can only do so much within its jurisdiction, and in a society where people are able to selectively consume content, a high-handed approach to censorship will only drive the CRC ostrich head further into its hole.

We should also welcome more content that provides social commentary. A mature society should be reflexive and be open to portrayals and reflections of various peoples in the community.

At the same time, we should not allow our censorship regime to be dominated by the opinions of the politically influential conservative elite, and that includes policy makers.

I am also intrigued by the attention surrounding content featuring homosexuality. I think it is very narrow and shallow of those who support the ban of content that portray homosexuality positively. This implies we render positive aspects and achievements of gay people invisible, and only present homosexuality in negative light. Even though I do not identify as homosexual, I find this very offensive. Imagine a segment of Singaporeans are only allowed to be portrayed as negative stereotypes.

It is also quite ironic that we Singaporeans will continue to live up to our stereotype as frogs in the well, as we continue to ignore or censor depictions of various realities and subjects.

A common argument is the preservation of our social fabric and moral values and how the media affect our children. I shall not bother addressing moral absolutists who are only concerned and defensive about their ideological domination, but would like to point out that our children will eventually live in a world that will not include us.

Regulation and censorship should not be wholesale and top-down. Alternatives such as self-regulation and co-regulation should also be in place. This at least gives content providers, the entertainment industry, artistes and puritan consumers some degree of autonomy in regulating and filtering content.

I am in the belief that the decision-making processes of the CRC would be a lot more swift if not for a vocal but polarised Singaporean society. Whatever decision made will not be a crowd pleaser, and detractors may simply see this as the payment of lip service to a specific segment of Singaporeans.

Ho Chi Sam

1 comment:

steven said...

It sad that only one para of your letter was was published when the rest of it made perfect rational and logical arguments for liberalising our media scene. What i am terrible angtsy about is the extreme lengths CRC would go to highlight certain groups within society as the moral ideal while downtrodding other segments as positively 'evil'. Nothing is ever black and white and Singapre had better get used to living in the 'grey' reality of the real world.