Yes, lots of politics these days. I (TP) was flipping through my Economist magazine the other day at the gym when I noticed that there was a big black splotch in the middle of one of my headlines. Printing error, I figured. Then I looked at the opposite page and saw another big black splotch, this one strategically placed over the heads of two guys in military uniforms. As I looked harder, I realized that this was no printing error, this was a little bit of deliberate censorship. The article was about gay men and women serving in the British military, and the picture was of navy gents kissing. Apparently, this does not work in Malaysia, so they censored it by putting a big glob of black ink over their heads, so it looks like two headless men are standing really close together. Come on, did they really think that readers wouldn’t figure out what’s really going on? We’re not sure what the policy on homosexuality in Malaysia is. Indonesia’s laws about homosexuality are simple and straightforward: homosexuality does not exist, so there’s no need to have any laws about it. Here, we guess there is an army of censors sitting in some building near whatever entrepot is used by magazine importers, waiting to find offending material and dabble ink on it.
Unlike Indonesia, in Malaysia there is still a good deal of active censorship of the media. In Indonesia, you can find any viewpoint you like, and there are literally hundreds of daily newspapers available. Not here, though, because it’s still a dictatorship. It’s mostly self-censorship, though. Members of the ruling coalition own every single newspaper of any significance and every local television station, so reporters don’t even try to release controversial stories. The folks at MACEE report that they stopped getting the daily paper because it’s such a travesty. Strangely, the internet has no active regulations–you can look at whatever you want–but the government sometimes tries to regulate the physical property of critical web publications, such as the excellent online newspaper Malaysiakini. Police will just confiscate computers and stuff. When we got our internet we had to sign a document saying that we would not use our computer for subversive activities, and that means criticizing the government and all that jazz. Due to some rather vague laws called the Internal Security Act of 1960, just about anything could be considered illegal. So by dictatorship, we meant parliamentary democracy.
(Oh and by the way, the article on gay and lesbian servicemen- and women in Britain made it clear that having openly gay soldiers has made not a lick of difference to the British military. Soldiers of all sexual orientations are serving honorably in Iraq, and the military has been so pleased with their service that they are actively increasing their recruitment among the homosexual community in Britain. The US should freaking get with the program.)