Singapore Cuts Banned Publications List

Singapore has slashed the number of books and magazines that are banned from being read or owned in the country.

The Media Development Authority, which also regulates the film, TV and Internet sectors, said that it had “de-gazetted” some 240 publications, cutting the banned list from 257 to just 17.

The move came on the eve of the opening of the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) and the Singapore Media Festival, which runs from today for ten days (Nov. 26 – Dec 6, 2015). The festival, and next week’s Asia Television Forum, will welcome hundreds of foreign visitors.

Among those titles which can now be legally viewed in Singapore include 18th century British erotic novel “Fanny Hill,” and Communist text “The Long March.”

The remaining 17 are mostly pornographic magazines – including “Playboy,” “Penthouse” and “Hustler” – as well as those published by the Jehovah’s Witness Church, which opposes Singapore’s compulsory military service.

The Media Development Authority said it “routinely reviews prior classification decisions, in order to ensure that they keep pace with societal norms.”

Lawyers quoted in Singapore media said that the reduction of the censorship list was unlikely to represent a policy shift by the MDA. Rather it is more likely to be a housekeeping exercise that brings the law in line with reality at a time when a wide range of content is freely available on the Internet.

“MDA assessed that a number of these de-gazetted publications are out-of-print or are permissible under today’s content standards,” it said via a spokesman.

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