(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The ban by the Malaysian Film Censorship Board of Hollywood's latest animated musical "The Prince of Egypt" is a "black eye" to the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) and Malaysia’s plans to become an IT superpower in the 21st century.
Giving another example of the government’s rejection of the principles of accountability and transparency, the Film Censorship Board has refused to give reasons for the ban.
The Chairman of the censorship board was quoted as telling Reuters yesterday: "We only tell the distributing company why a film has been banned. We cannot provide information to anyone else. Among the reasons we ban movies are because they are excessive or are not suitable for Malaysian audiences."
This high-handed attitude may be the order of yester-years but is no more satisfactory or acceptable in this modern day and age of information technology, and the people expect greater accountability and transparency. The Malaysian Film Censorship Board not only owes United International Pictures (UIP), local distributor for the film, but also all Malaysians a full explanation of the reasons behind the ban of "The Prince of Egypt".
How can Malaysia become Asia’s film-making hub when it has such outmoded censorship laws, where the US$60 million handiwork of more than 350 animators, artists and technicians and DreamWorks Studio’s first full-length animated film telling the epic story of Moses could be banned without any proper explanation to the public by the relevant authorities?
Even more serious, the ban on "The Prince of Egypt" will by sending out the worst possible message to the world that Malaysia does not have the mindset yet to become a IT nation despite the globe-trotting efforts of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to sell the futuristic Multimedia Super Corridor.
The Malaysian government seems to be very confused as to its real National Information Technology Agenda.
Yesterday, the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced that Malaysia will host the World Multimedia Expo, billed as the biggest in this region, to show its commitment to the application of Multimedia and Information Technology in its education system. He said the expo to be held in the first quarter of next year would show the world Malaysia's seriousness in realising its ambitious MSC project.
Let me tell Najib that all the efforts, resources, expenses and time needed to make the World Multimedia Expo a success cannot undo the harm done to Malaysia’s standing in the world of Multimedia and IT by the banning of the "Prince of Egypt" animation film.
Malaysia’s MSC and plan to take the quantum leap into the Information Age can only succeed if the government is prepared to unleash creativity at all levels. Malaysia faces an acute shortage of IT personnel and experts without which all plans to make Malaysia an IT superpower in the 21st century is mere pipedream.
By banning "Prince of Egypt", Malaysia is countering the open invitation which Mahathir had issued to the best and brightest IT experts in the world to come to make MSC their testbed of creativity, by sending out the strong signal that creativity is not welcome in Malaysia.
The Deputy Prime Minister and the new Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should overrule the Film Censorship Board and revoke the ban on "The Prince of Egypt" before more damage is done to Malaysia’s IT future.
In any event, the ban by the Film Censorship Board is most ludicrous as the "Prince of Egypt" may not be showing in the cinemas, but it is easily available on VCD all over the country.
May be, as one of his first actions as Home Minister, Abdullah should revamp the Film Censorship Board and induct the censors into the world of information technology.