KUALA LUMPUR: Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said he would study whether the controversial film Tanda Putera could be banned from Penang cinemas.
He said local authorities issued licenses to cinema operators, and it needed to be determined if banning films was under its purview.
"Whether this power is used to ban a film is a new matter that needs to be looked at," he told reporters Wednesday.
He expressed bewilderment over the Penang state government's request that its cinemas do not screen Tanda Putera.
He said this was an unprecedented move by any state government, adding that decisions to ban films were usually under the purview of the film censorship board.
"Normally, banned films are those with pornographic or violent elements, or those that send a wrong kind of message to viewers," he said.
He expressed hope that the Penang state government's move would not become a new culture or reason for any party to restrict freedom of expression in the arts.
"For me, only things that clearly go against the film censorship board's principles should be banned. Other things should be given space to allow criticism and debate.
"At the end of the day, viewers are the one who decide the value of the films they watch," he said.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said earlier that his government had requested all cinema operators in the state not to screen Tanda Putera.
He claimed there were slanderous scenes that could provoke racial hatred and expressed regret that the Ministry had failed to remove some of the scenes.
State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the local councils issue licenses to all cinemas but do not have power over the content of the film.However, in view of the sensitivity of the film, he said the Penang Municipal Council and Seberang Prai Municipal Council would issue letters to all cinemas and request them not to screen the film.
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