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No outright ban of LGBT characters, but potential censorship in Malaysia

No outright ban of LGBT characters, but potential censorship in Malaysia

Malaysia has no plan to ban state media programmes featuring LGBTQ characters, but retains the right to select suitable content for the public, officials clarified yesterday (6 Apr).

In what appeared to be a ‘directive’ on Facebook, the Department of Information on Thursday called on radio and television stations to stop the depiction of ‘pondans’ (transsexuals), effeminate men and characters in conflict with social and religious norms, allegedly supporting and contributing to the increase of the ‘LGBT social problem’.

With the message stirring up a hot debate online, Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yaim and his deputy sought to explain the official stance both yesterday and today – only to cause much more confusion.

‘There is no ban on any artistic performance by any segment of society, including those acronymed as soft men,’ Rais wrote on Twitter.

The ministry, however, reserves the right to select contents suitable to the general public since the country is a multi-racial, religious and cultural one, he added.

Confusingly, Rais went on to state in Malacca that Malaysians have constitutionally-enshrined rights to showcase their talents through the media that ‘no quarters should attempt to prevent anyone who wants to be featured in television programmes from doing so’, according to the Star newspaper.

While confirming the ‘ban’ as a mistake, Rais’s deputy Maglin Dennis D’Cruz noted there is indeed a directive and a guideline will be produced to avoid putting LGBT characters on screen or the air waves.

Maglin was essentially contradicting a clarification and apology from the Department of Information, which noted its Facebook message was merely a ‘discussion topic’ taken from a radio station's Facebook page.

Malaysian authorities are generally unsupportive of the LGBT community. Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin told a counseling conference earlier this week that the profession was needed to ‘curb’ the ‘spread’ of LGBT groups, and pledged RM100,000 ($32,680, €24,860) to the Malaysian International Counseling Association to help counsel 'those faced with sexuality problems.

The government is apparently going on a spree targeting the LGBT community because it seeks to demonize and label their political enemies as such – including opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, claimed Azlan Adnan, leader of the Green Party of Malaysia.

The LGBT community should not be harassed by anyone, let alone the 'cruel' government which plans to legislate such intolerance, he said.