FAQ (on censorship)

What is censorship (of the arts)?

Censorship is the control and suppression of the communication of ideas and material considered objectionable or problematic by the censor. In the case of the arts, it is the modification, prevention and discrimination of art production and artworks, through restriction of their presentation and performance by direct or indirect means.

"Nearly every justification offered for both general principles and individual acts of censorship in Singapore is linked in some way or other to a social category that has come to be known as the ‘heartlanders’. Popularised by then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in his 1999 National Day Rally speech, the word in its most literal sense refers to the great majority of Singaporeans - more than 80 percent - who live within vast public housing estates...

The heartlander as an ideological category provides the state’s censorship policies with their terms of reference, including notions of ‘public order’, ‘vulnerable multiracialism’, and ‘core social values’. The state censors in this way because, it claims, that is exactly what the majority of Singaporeans - the conservative heartlanders - want. Democracy is about being accountable to the majority of voters; and politics more generally is about gaining power by winning the support of the most influential persons or groups of persons in a polity. And so, engineering a conservative majority of Singaporeans and then acting in ways that suggest faithful representation of their interests is a powerful political strategy, but not one that goes completely unnoticed in Singapore... 

An uncritical exercise of state censorship actually reinforces the preconceptions and prejudices that define the ‘offence’ in the first place, further restricting in this way the ‘heartlanders’ access to a richer body of critical resources to make sense of art, and even what it might represent." 

- Kenneth Paul Tan, Censorship in Whose Name? in Renaissance Singapore? Economy, Culture and Politics, (ed), NUS Press, 2007
... back to top

Who is the Censorship Review Committee?

The Censorship Review Committee (CRC) is a group appointed by the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA) to review content regulation policies and standards across the various media, including films, video, film/video advertising, broadcast media, arts entertainment, video games, advertisements, publications and the internet.

MICA announced a mid-term review of the CRC in May 2009 (link here), and the appointment of the 2009/10 committee in September 2009 (link here). A list of the committee members may be found here.

For Arts Engage, our interest in addressing the CRC is in relation to the production and presentation of art, and the impact of the CRC's review and recommendations on the arts community.

... back to top

Licensing and Funding?

At present and from experience, censorship occurs at various levels and are directed from different agencies and organisations. A brief range of examples of censorship experiences may be found here.

In addition, licensing and funding practices also affect art production and presentation:

What are the legal statues affecting the arts?

In Singapore, certain legal statues affect the arts. The details of the following statutes can be found on Statutes Online: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/
  • Broadcasting Act (Cap 28)
  • Films Act (Cap 107) 
  • Newspaper & Printing Presses Act (Cap 206)
  • Public Entertainments and Meetings (Cap 257) 
  • Undesirable Publications Act (Cap 338)
... back to top