18.6.10

Regulate, don't censor leh

A group of arts practitioners in Singapore known as Arts Engage (full disclosure: some of them are my friends) is proposing to the government that it regulate, rather than censor outright, the arts. Why?
Censorship entails proscribing content, prohibiting its public presentation, and/or preventing its creators from working towards its realisation. While conducted by civil servants who may sincerely believe they act in the name of the public good, censorship is often politically motivated, and always arbitrary. It fosters a culture of dependency on the part of the public, timidity on the part of institutions, and resentment or self-censorship on the part of content producers. It is costly, inefficient, and dignifies no-one. [source; emphasis mine]
As for regulation, on the other hand:
Regulation entails the disinterested classification of content according to publicly available guidelines. It enables access to the widest choice of content for the greatest number of individuals. It promotes responsibility on the part of all stakeholders, and transparency and accountability within and between institutions. [same source as above; emphasis mine]
I like the idea of responsibility, transparency and accountability. As a writer, I realise that some of the things I write may not please everyone, but I'm not forcing anyone to read or publish it. I prefer to live by the apocryphal line attributed to Voltaire, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

(Yes, even for people in Singapore who make wilfully ignorant statements. And yes, I still think we should talk about the issues instead of siccing the police on them.)

At any rate, the folks at Arts Engage have put together a very cogent statement about what they are proposing and why. You don't have to be an artist or to "appreciate art", in order to read or understand the statement. If you've ever enjoyed something imaginative and creative and it has made your life better in some way, please have a look at the website and think about why it's important that the arts not be censored, controlled or prohibited in Singapore. There are also accounts of previous incidents when the arts have been censored by the government.

Separately, comic artist Otto Fong has written a succinct appeal for support for this position paper (and drawn a simple comic too).

And if after reading you agree with what Arts Engage is proposing, please sign and support the position paper. Lots of arts practitioners have signed it, but it'd be great (as always) to have audience support as well. We thank you.

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