Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Kiddy porn?

When a newspaper reporter called me yesterday to ask me for my opinion about a ‘banned’ children’s book, I initially declined comment because I didn’t know which book it was, since I don’t read ‘dead-tree’ newspapers. But, she persisted. I said I couldn’t speak for other bookshops, but I gave her my opinion on the arbitrariness of censorship in the country (depending on who’s in charge, etc) and the censorship by harassment (a favourite ploy). I still didn’t know which book she was talking about.

This morning, reading the online news on my iPad, I discovered that the book in question is Where Did I Come From by Peter Mayle, with illustrations by Arthur Robbins.  I remember that book; I (and my wife) bought it for our son when he was five because we were too squeamish to approach the subject. That was 27 years ago! I believe he still has the book somewhere. He is now 32, happily married with two lovely daughters. As far as I know he has not become a serial killer (or rapist) or any other type of criminal but, whether, he'd want to pass the book on to his girls is up to him and his spouse. (As grandparents, me and my wife will stay out of the decision.)

What is interesting is that, after least twenty seven years, after thousands of copies have been sold, after an entire generation of Malaysians have died, after a whole new one has come been born, it takes only one person to complain for the Ministry to jump.

Boy, talk about spectacular! This deserves kompang, bunga mawar and fireworks at the Lake Gardens, and a special award for the Minister. There must be a world record in there somewhere. This is the stuff of legends. Minister finds ‘dirty’ book in public after 27 years and bans it. Thre is a great message in there too: if you deal in smut, or pirated DVDs, or whatever, it will take the government 27 years to get you, but when they do you will be dead -- literally. In the meantime, do not call any government department; they will all be attending kursus.

Those who want to look at those naked pictures that got the complainant's knickers in a knot, try Google. Warning: you will be with confronted full frontal nudity and male/female genetalia as you have never seen before, all disguised as cartoons!

Another prominent book to be banned in recent times is Sebongkah Batu Di Kuala Berang by Faisal Tehrani. According to rumours the ban is from JAKIM, apparently, for daring to suggest that Islam in Malaysia was brought by Shia' clerics (but this is not confirmed)

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Malaysia fails media trust barometer

I first read this story in the Malay Mail and, as an indication of how much I trust the Malaysian media, I had to look at the primary source. This is from the website: "The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer shows an overall decline in trust globally, with steep declines in the levels of trust in government and business. Government is now the least trusted institution–trailing business, media, and NGOs. Business experienced fewer and generally less severe declines in trust, but has its own hurdles to clear – notably that CEO credibility declined 38 percent, its biggest drop in Barometer history. For the fifth year in a row, NGOs are the most trusted institution."

The Edelman survey of 1000 participants in each country has, certainly, has come up with some strange results. That the majority in Malaysia (a newcomer to the survey) do not trust the media is not news, but I was surprised that 47% still do! What is surprising that in Singapore, 65% trust the media (an increase from 59% last year) and in Indonesia, 80% do (a decrease from 86% last year). What is even more surprising is that in China 79% trust their media, 1% less than 2011. (I guess the cynic would say that they still dare not speak the truth for fear of being reported; censorship works at all levels.) Still, Malaysia is in the red zone with Argentina, Australia, much of Europe, Japan, Korea, Russia and the USA. (We are in good company, it appears.) Canada and Italy are in the orange 'kumsi kumsa' range, while in the media in India, Brazil and Mexico are the most trusted.

The institution that is considered most untrustworthy is the Goverment. Even in that aspect, I was surprised to see that 49% of the respondents trust the Government of Malaysia to do the right thing, and only 24% do not trust them to tell the truth. In the case of businesses only 9% of Malaysians think they don't tell the truth. Boy, are we a naive bunch. We get what we deserve. Generally though, the NGOs come out looking quite good; they are trusted in most countries.