KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 — The Home Ministry has denied involvement in obscuring pig faces in the local edition of International New York Times (NYT), saying the publisher likely censored the publication on its own volition.
The ministry’s Publication and Quranic Texts Control Division secretary Hashimah Nik Jaafar told The Malay Mail Online that Malaysia has no law prohibiting pictures of pigs from being published and the publisher would not have faced trouble if they had not censored these.
“What they have done is self-censorship because I think we don’t really have any laws to say that they should not have these kind of photos.
“But in our permit, there are some guidelines that indicate what are the things that can be published and what cannot be published,” she said when contacted yesterday.
As an example, Hashimah said that local guidelines stipulate that beer advertisements in international magazines printed in Malaysia should not be printed alongside an article or a picture of a Malaysian leader, or an article on Malay culture.
She added that it is up to the inventiveness of the publishers to edit photos to cover up overly exposed body parts considered inappropriate.
“Our condition is for them to be sensitive to the sensitivities of our various culture.
“Sometimes, we have to look into the context and see why they use these the photos, like this is to explain the rising demand for pigs, why would we say they can’t use this picture?” she added.
A front-page story in the international NYT yesterday featured a picture of piglets standing in the snow, but the printers of the Malaysian edition, KHL Printing Co, concealed the faces of each animal.
A continuation of the story about rising demand for pigs reared in the open, on page 19 of the paper, received the same treatment and saw the faces of two adult pigs blacked out.
A representative from the printing company based in Shah Alam told the Malay Mail Online in a telephone conversation that pictures of pigs are not allowed in a Muslim country like Malaysia, adding that it is not the company’s first time in censoring pictures such as these.
“If there is picture of nudes or like this, we will cover. This is a Muslim country,” the spokesman said when asked why the faces of the pigs had been censored.
He added that the printing firm had not received express instructions from the authorities to censor the pictures.
Although a secular and multi-religious country, about two-thirds of Malaysia’s 28 million population is Muslim.
Local media outlets are careful to not offend the majority Muslims.
Last year, satellite television provider Astro added a disclaimer saying “This programme portrays depiction of religious figures and represents views other than Muslims’. Viewer discretion is advised.” to a documentary on Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church worldwide, leading to public complaint.
Earlier this month, Astro was the subject of another complaint of apparent censorship, when a viewer alleged that the words “Ya Allah” was silenced during a musical performance in Bollywood film “Pukar”.
But such precautions are not without reason.
English-language newspaper The Star, for instance, ran into trouble with the Home Ministry in 2011 when it featured non-halal eateries within a supplement that carried the words “Ramadan Delights” on its cover.