Censored, The Economist says negotiating with Malaysia for release

An Indian magazine vendor arranges a censored issue of the Economist magazine at a road-side stall in New Delhi on May 24, 2011. — AFP pic
An Indian magazine vendor arranges a censored issue of the Economist magazine at a road-side stall in New Delhi on May 24, 2011. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 — The Economist is negotiating with Malaysian authorities over “censorship issues” which have delayed the circulation of the British weekly’s latest issue, a spokesman for the publication said today.

The latest edition of the magazine, which features several controversial articles on Malaysia, was seized by Malaysian Customs, causing a delay in distribution.

“There is a particular controversial content in the weekly. We are facing some censorship issues but negotiations are going on,” the spokesman told The Malay Mail Online when contacted.

The spokesman declined to reveal more about the problematic content.

Only the print edition has been affected due to the “sensitive content,” according to an email the weekly sent subscribers.

Those with full digital access will be able to read the edition in full, the email added.

A Home Ministry representative confirmed that the magazine was being held back but gave no reasons.

“We have done our part and given our views. Our responsibility is to check on all imported content,” said Hashimah Nik Jaafar, the ministry’s Publication and Quranic Texts Control Division secretary, when contacted today.

She declined to comment on the status of the negotiations with The Economist.

News portal fz.com reported that the weekly was held back over a photograph of a gay couple kissing which accompanied an article titled “Cures for homosexuality” in its section on China.

Other articles in its latest Asia edition include an overview of Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s second sodomy conviction, Malaysia’s worryingly high ranking on The Economist’s crony-capitalism index and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

The Court of Appeal’s ruling on March 7 to overturn Anwar’s acquittal by the High Court in 2012 and theories behind the missing Beijing-bound plane were printed in the Asia section of the weekly, which is distributed in over 190 countries.

Malaysia’s third position after Hong Kong and Russia in the magazine’s crony-capitalism index, which measured the wealth of billionaires earned through rent-seeking sectors, appeared in the weekly’s international news section.

The London-based news magazine has upset Malaysian authorities in the past, leading to several articles censored or blotted out for being perceived as detrimental to the country’s image.

Between January 2009 and August 2010 Malaysia censored 11 issues of the weekly.

In 2011, parts of an article describing Putrajaya’s handling of the rights group Bersih’s popular rally in July that year as overzealous, were blacked out by local distributors.

In 2009, the weekly’s Christmas issue showing Adam and Eve was censored in five countries, including in Malaysia. Authorities covered Eve’s bare breasts.

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