By CENBET Co-President, Gan Ping Sieu on the Home Ministry's Decision to Ban G25's Book
Monday, July 31, 2017

The Home Ministry should review its censorship process for print publications, to restore public confidence of its role as a gatekeeper of information and views. We are deeply troubled by the Ministry's recent decision to ban a book by G25, Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation: Islam in a Constitutional Democracy.

The book was published well over 18 months ago and is freely accessible in cyberspace. Most of the views expressed in the book have been in public domain for years and are subjects of public debates and civil discussions.

Having read the book early last year, I do not see how the publication can be prejudicial to public order. On the contrary, the collection of essays by prominent and moderate opinion-shapers would only help foster better ties between the different communities in this country.

Banning the book by pro-moderation group, G25, sends the wrong message about the government's commitment to moderation, which CENBET also advocates. This also goes against wasatiyyah promoted by YAB Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak and his desire to become a global moderate Muslim leader.

This is not the first time the Home Ministry's decisions to ban certain books had attracted bad press for the country globally. Over the years, numerous questionable decisions were made on banning books and magazines. In 2011, I had also publicly objected to the Ministry's decision to black out an article in The Economist on Malaysia's electoral reforms.

Such questionable decisions only fuel suspicion that officials in the Home Ministry are stuck in a time warp or are susceptible to political interference. Poor execution of censorship policy curtails freedom of speech and allows undesirable content to slip past. It also discourages civil discussions to take place.

This is why a review of the SOP in the censorship process is necessary. Taxpayers have a right to know why certain publications do not see the light of day here. Rightfully, any publications that do not fan racial and religious hatred or promote violence ought to be allowed.

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