Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, currently embroiled in an epic corruption scandal, is proposing a law that would impose stiff fines and jail sentences on those who publish what it deems fake news. The proposed law is a warning of the danger when
governments decide what is true and what is not.
Najib, seeking reelection to a third term, is being investigated by several countries, including the United States, on allegations that he and close associates diverted $4.5 billion from a Malaysian
government investment fund for their own use. An inevitable outcome of the law, should it be passed, would be to chill media discussion of the corruption scandal.
The legislation would define as fake news any news, information, data and reports
which are wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas. It would cover those who create, offer, circulate, print or publish fake news or publications
containing fake news, and impose a 10-year jail term, a fine of up to $128,000, or both, at the whim of the government. The law would apply to those overseas as well as inside Malaysia.
China is consolidating film, news, and publishing regulation under the powerful Chinese Communist Party propaganda department.
The media shake-up signals tighter media control amid a broad crackdown on news, online content, and film that goes against
The propaganda body will take on powers over film, news, and publishing, previously held by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television, which was dissolved earlier this month as part of the wider
The Chinese Communist Party is increasingly leveraging cultural products such as movies, rap music, and even video games to promote socialist values, a modernizing push to make sure it avoids falling out of touch with youth.
has also seen a major tightening over online content from ramped up censorship of microblogs, culls on live-streaming platforms, and regulators criticizing some of the country's top internet firms over content.
The Shape of Water is a 2017 USA fantasy romance by Guillermo del Toro. Starring Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer.
Censored Chinese version
Chinese audiences are used to censored, clean versions of Hollywood imports involving violence, nudity, sex scenes, or profanity. What Chinese moviegoers are allowed to see in theaters completely depends on the country's film censor, the State
Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People's Republic of China (SAPPRFT), which, in the recent release of 2017 Oscar winner The Shape of Water, altered scenes where actors are in states of undress by either adding
clothes or else pixellating out the offending details.
According to a Weibo post by movie critic Feng Xiaoqiang CCC, in one scene of the Chinese revised version of the film, the female protagonist, Elisa, is covered in black shadows from her chest
to her thighs, whereas in the original, the actress is fully naked with her back facing the camera.
That was my first time seeing this in a Chinese theater. I was stunned, Feng wrote. It almost looks like the actress is dressed in an all-black
one-piece swimsuit, and it fits her well.
Some scenes are completely stripped from the movie, such as the opening sequence of Elisa masturbating in her tub and several sex scenes.
To avoid nudity, another method used in the movie is to zoom
in the camera on the actress's face while cutting other parts of her body out of the frame.
However, with the removal of a few scenes, the modified version somehow still managed to maintain the same length of 123 minutes as its original. In his
post, Feng said that since he didn't notice any replacement footage in the movie, his guess is that SAPPRFT has extended the time for opening or closing credits.
Amused by the fit swimsuit that SAPPRFT forced Elisa to wear, Chinese internet users
started to dress characters in other movies to ridicule the prudishness of SAPPRFT.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the absurd provisions of a bill unveiled this week in Singapore that would prohibit photo and video reporting from the scene of a terrorist attack.
A ban on media coverage is the main aim of the Public
Order and Safety Bill presented by Singapore's home affairs ministry , which would allow the police to enforce a communications stop order.
Journalists and members of the public would face up to two years in prison or a fine of 20,000 Singaporean
dollars (15,000 US dollars) if they took photos or video of a terrorist attack or communicated text or audio messages about the ensuing police operations.
Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF's Asia-Pacific desk said:
No one disputes the need for special measures in the event of a terrorist attack, but it is not the interior ministry's job to decided what journalists can broadcast or publish.
By depriving the public of
coverage of such grave events, this ban would put the public in danger. This proposed law would be completely counter-productive if the aim of the authorities is to protect the population. But it would be very effective if their aim is to gag independent
Chinese censors are battling to silence criticism of Xi Jinping's bid to set himself to reign over China for the rest of his life.
The Communist party claim that the move is an acknowledgement of overwhelming support for Xi. However, there has been
widespread online push-back in China since it was announced on the eve of an annual political congress in Beijing. So the Chinese censors have ramped up their efforts to stifle discontent with the proposal.
In a blog post, Victor Mair, a
University of Pennsylvania China expert, said censors had taken quick, drastic action after the internet was flooded with complaints. For instance the following earch terms have been blocked on Twitter-like Weibo:
Ten thousand years, used as a term like Long live!
Xi Zedong, a hybrid of the names of Xi and Chairman Mao Zedong
the letter N, for unknown reasons, perhaps even a typo
China has also been aggressive in criticising the west for joining in the debate.
Filmmaker Oh Seok-geun has been appointed chairman of the Korean Film Council , South Korea's film industry regulator and funding body. The position had been vacant for six months following the resignation in dubious circumstances of former chairman Kim
Sae-hoon. Oh said:
My priority is to help Kofic regain its lost trust of the film industry. I will reexamine the funding programs and policies that were unfairly handled during the past government. Programs that were
maladapted to exclude certain types of films such as independent films will surely be redesigned.
During the former chairman's term, Kofic experienced a number of problems: Kim had been accused of embezzling public money and of
colluding with South Korea's impeached former President Park Geun-hye, who wanted the film industry to serve her nationalist agenda.
Park and her supporters, including former culture minister Cho Yoon-sun and chief of staff Kim Ki-choon, were
involved in the notorious blacklist that named almost 9,000 cultural figures deemed to be anti-government. The list was circulated in an effort to exclude artists and companies from funding programs operated by state-controlled agencies, including Kofic
. Kim resigned after President Moon Jae-in replaced Park.
Thailand asks developers to speed up its 'Foreigner Database' that will record the entries and exits of all foreigners, and require them to report to local police every time they change hotel or address
Thailand's Immigration Bureau and the Interior Ministry have been instructed to speed up the implementation of a single-platform online database of foreigners entering and leaving the kingdom. The two agencies were told to have the new system fully
functioning in six months.
The order was given by the Deputy leader of Thailand's military governement, General Prawit Wongsuwan.
The single platform database would enable the government to keep tabs on all foreigners so that they can be easily
located by the police.
As part of the new system, the Immigration Bureau will cancel the use of the Immigration 6 form and instead use e-passport data. A spokesman said each immigration checkpoint would be equipped with identity-checking
equipment, such as fingerprint readers and passport scanners, to enter information into the database.
At the same time, the Interior Ministry's Provincial Administration Department must ensure that all hotels, apartments, guesthouses and other
accommodation services keep and report records of foreigners using their services by informing the nearest immigration office or police station, which will in turn feed the data to the database. Foreigners also now have to report to the local
police or immigration every time they change hotel or where they stay whilst in Thailand.
The US-based global tech giant Apple Inc. is set to hand over the operation of its iCloud data center in mainland China to a local corporation called Guizhou-Cloud Big Data (GCBD) by February 28, 2018. When this transition happens, the local company
will become responsible for handling the legal and financial relationship between Apple and China's iCloud users. After the transition takes place, the role of Apple will restricted to an investment of US one billion dollars, for the construction of a
data center in Guiyang, and for providing technical support to the center, in the interest of preserving data security.
GCBD was established in November 2014 with a RMB 235 million yuan [approximately US$ 37.5 million] registered
capital investment. It is a state enterprise solely owned by Guizhou Big Data Development and Management Bureau. The company is also supervised by Guizhou Board of Supervisors of State-owned Enterprises.
What will happen to
Apple's Chinese customers once iCloud services are handed over to GCBD? In public statements, Apple has avoided acknowledging the political implications of the move:
This will allow us to continue to improve the
speed and reliability of iCloud in China and comply with Chinese regulations.
Apple Inc. has not explained the real issue, which is that a state-owned big data company controlled by the Chinese government will have
access to all the data of its iCloud service users in China. This will allow the capricious state apparatus to jump into the cloud and look into the data of Apple's Chinese users.
Apple Inc. has not explained the real
issue, which is that a state-owned big data company controlled by the Chinese government will have access to all the data of its iCloud service users in China.
Over the next few weeks, iCloud users in China will
receive a notification from Apple, seeking their endorsement of the new service terms. These "iCloud (operated by GCBD) terms and conditions" have a newly added paragraph, which reads:
If you understand and
agree, Apple and GCBD have the right to access your data stored on its servers. This includes permission sharing, exchange, and disclosure of all user data (including content) according to the application of the law.
In other words, once the agreement is signed, GCBD -- a company solely owned by the state -- would get a key that can access all iCloud user data in China, legally.
Apple's double standard
Why would a company that built its reputation on data security surrender to the Chinese government so easily?
I still remember how in February 2016,
after the attack in San Bernardino, Apple CEO Tim Cook withstood pressure from the US Department of Justice to build an iPhone operating system that could circumvent security features and install it in the iPhone of the shooter. Cook even issued an open letter
to defend the company's decision.
Apple's insistence on protecting user data won broad public support. At the same time, it was criticized by the Department of Justice , which retorted that the open letter "appears
to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy."
This comment has proven true today, because it is clear that the company is operating on a double standard in its Chinese business. We
could even say that it is bullying the good actor while being terrified by the bad one.
Apple Inc. and Tim Cook, who had once stayed firm against the US government, suddenly have become soft in front of Chinese government. Faced
with the unreasonable demand put forward by the Chinese authorities, Apple has not demonstrated a will to resist. On the contrary, it is giving people the impression that it will do whatever needed to please the authorities.
the end of 2017, Apple lnc. admitted it had removed 674 VPN apps from Chinese App Store. These apps are often used by netizens for circumventing the Great Firewall (blocking of overseas websites and content). Skype
also vanished from the Chinese App Store. And Apple's submission to the Chinese authorities' requests generated a feeling of
"betrayal" among Chinese users.
Some of my friends from mainland China have even decided to give up using Apple mobile phones and shifted to other mainland Chinese brands. Their decision, in addition to the price, is
mainly in reaction to Apple's decision to take down VPN apps from the Chinese Apple store.
Some of these VPN apps can still be downloaded from mobile phones that use the Android system. This indicates that Apple is not
"forced" to comply. People suspect that it is proactively performing a "obedient" role.
The handover of China iCloud to GCBD is unquestionably a performance of submission and kowtow. Online, several people have
quipped: "the Chinese government is asking for 50 cents, Apple gives her a dollar."
Selling the iPhone in China
Apple says the handover is due to new regulations that cloud servers must be
operated by local corporation. But this is unconvincing. China's Cybersecurity Law, which was implemented on June 1 2017, does demand that user information and data collected in mainland China be stored within the border . But it does not require
that the data center be operated by a local corporation.
In other words, even according to Article 37 of the Cybersecurity Law, Apple does not need to hand over the operation of iCloud services to a local corporation, to say
nothing of the fact that the operator is solely owned by the state. Though Apple may have to follow the "Chinese logic" or "unspoken rule", the decision looks more like a strategic act, intended to insulate Apple from financial, legal
and moral responsibility to their Chinese users, as stated in the new customer terms and conditions on the handover of operation. It only wants to continue making a profit by selling iPhone in China.
Many people have encountered
similar difficulties when doing business in China -- they have to follow the authorities' demands. Some even think that it is inevitable and therefore reasonable. For example, Baidu's CEO Robin Li said in a recent interview with Time Magazine,
"That's our way of doing business here".
I can see where Apple is coming from. China is now the third largest market for the iPhone. While confronting vicious competition from local brands, the future growth of
iPhone in China has been threatened . And unlike in the US, if Apple does not submit to China and comply with the Cybersecurity Law, the Chinese authorities can use other regulations and laws like the Encryption Law of the People's Republic of
China (drafting) and Measures for Security Assessment of Cross-border Data Transfer (drafting) to force Apple to yield.
However, as the world's biggest corporation in market value which has so many loyal fans, Apple's performance
in China is still disappointing. It has not even tried to resist. On the contrary, it has proactively assisted [Chinese authorities] in selling out its users' private data.
Assisting in the making of a 'Cloud Dictatorship'
This is perhaps the best result that China's party-state apparatus could hope for. In recent years, China has come to see big data as a strategic resource for its diplomacy and for maintaining domestic stability. Big data is as
important as military strength and ideological control. There is even a new political term "Data-in-Party-control" coming into use.
As an Apple fans, I lament the fact that Apple has become a key multinational
corporation offering its support to the Chinese Communist Party's engineering of a "Cloud Dictatorship". It serves as a very bad role model: Now Apple that has kowtowed to the CCP, how long will other tech companies like Facebook, Google and
Amazon be able to resist the pressure?
China has praised Theresa May for not mentioning Chinese human rights abuse during her three day visit.
The Global Times newspaper hailed her for avoiding rebuking the regime for its treatment of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and human rights
record in China, and instead to confine herself to enthusiastic and positive remarks about China.
Downing Street insisted that the PM did raise the issues in her discussions with both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
May must have said something not quite right though as a BBC World News report on May's visit to the country was cut out midway through the broadcast in the country. China correspondent Stephen McDonnell tweeted a video of the incident alongside
So I hope @BBCWorld viewers are enjoying their screens going to black in mainland #China today as the censors pull the feed with coverage of PM Theresa May @Number10gov + Pres Xi Jinping and human rights
as well as #Xinjiang crack down.
Clive Stafford Smith, who founded human rights group Reprieve, tweeted:
What we all want in a principled leader! Theresa May commended by China for sidestepping
human rights - so why not just abolish them, or abolish humans? Or maybe we could have @RealDonad_Trump for PM instead after he has been impeached?
Thailand has banned smoking on their top beaches citing litter from butt ends, which seems a bit rich when overlooking large amounts of plastic pollution that is washed up on beaches these days.
The country has banned smoking at 24 of the most popular
beaches with foreign tourists.
Bannaruk Sermthong, director at the Office of Marine and Coastal Resources Management told Reuters : Starting today, smoking and cigarette-butt littering are prohibited on beach areas. Anyone who wants to smoke must
do so in designated smoking areas, not on the beaches.
If you're found smoking on a beach you could be fined 100,000 baht (£2,243) and get a year in prison.
And it's not just cigarettes which are banned on Thai beaches.The country has also
banned vaping entirely.
Oh and drinking beer on the beach is also prohibited
China will begin blocking overseas providers of virtual private networks (VPN) used to circumvent its Great Firewall of government censorship at the end of March, official media reported.
Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) chief
censor Zhang Feng said VPN operators must be licensed by the government, and that unlicensed VPNs are the target of new rules which come into force on March 31. He said that China wants to ban VPNs which unlawfully conduct cross-border operational
Any foreign companies that want to set up a cross-border operation for private use will need to set up a dedicated line for that purpose, he said. They will be able to lease such a line or network legally from the telecommunications
import and export bureau.
Meanwhile, the American Chamber of Commerce in China said it had carried out a recent survey of U.S. companies in the country that showed that the inability to access certain online tools, internet censorship, and
cybersecurity were impeding their operations.
An internet user surnamed Zeng told RFA that the new regulations could also hit any Chinese businesses that need unimpeded communications with the outside world. He explained:
I have a friend who is a businessman, and makes things mainly for export, and this has already affected his order book. He usually uses WhatsApp to communicate [with customers] and now it's very hard to log on, and this has really
affected business. In future, he won't be able to log on at all, so he told me he will likely have to shut down his factory.
Gay dating apps have been pulled from the Google Play Store in Indonesia amid a government crackdown on the LGBT community.
China-based app Blued, which is the largest hook-up app for the LGBT community across Asia and rivals Grindr globally, was
pulled from the store as the government demanded Google censor a total of 73 LGBT-related applications. The government claimed that the app were removed due to claims of negative content and pornographic content.
spokescensor Noor Iza told AFP:
There was some negative content related to pornography inside the application. Probably one or some members of the application put the pornographic content inside.
I don't know [whether the ministry has sent a similar request to Apple]. They should since there are two operating systems.
Meanwhile lawmakers are trying to pass legislation which would outlaw LGBT behaviours on
television -- potentially censoring shows that include LGBT characters as well as news reports on the LGBT community.
It is technically legal to be gay in Indonesia apart from Aceh province, which implements extreme punishments under Shariah law.
China's internet censor has shut down some of the most popular sections of Weibo, a Twitter-like social media platform, saying that the website had failed in its duty to censor content.
The Beijing office of the Cyberspace Administration of China
summoned a Weibo executive, complaining of its serious problems including not censoring vulgar and pornographic content. The censor said:
Sina Weibo has violated the relevant internet laws and regulations and spread
illegal information. It has a serious problem in promoting 'wrong' values and has had an adverse influence on the internet environment.
It highlighted as problematic sections of the platform such as the hot topics ranking, most
searched, most searched celebrities and most searched relationship topics, as well as its question-and-answer section.
Other problems on Weibo included allowing posts that discriminated against ethnic minorities and content that was not in line
with what it deemed appropriate social values.
Weibo said it had since shut down a number of services, including its list of top searches, for a week.
Malaysia's film censors have banned Padmaavat , a controversial Hindi movie that features the relationship between a Hindu queen and a Muslim ruler in medieval India.
The Film Censorship Board (LPF) placed the movie in its not approved list,
with a not relevant remark placed on its age rating section. The not relevant remark is usually given to banned movies deemed to likely incite hatred and uneasiness among the community.
In Malaysia, Padmaavat is the second movie to get the axe
this year, following Those Long Haired Nights a Filipino movie about three ladyboy sex workers.
South Korea's former culture minister, Cho Yoon-sun, has been sentenced to two years in jail for conspiring in a state-sponsored blacklisting of local artists and entertainment figures who did not support the country's ousted ex-president, Park
Cho had previously been cleared of the offence but an appeals court in Seoul reviewed the case and found further evidence in documents from the Presidential Blue House. Cho was arrested in court and taken into immediate custody.
notorious blacklist features nearly 10,000 artists, including the likes of Oldboy helmer Park Chan-wook, Snowpiercer actor Song Kang-ho and Man Booker Prize-winning novelist Han Kang. The blacklist was designed to deliberately exclude artists deemed
unfriendly toward Park from state-controlled support programs.
Park herself was impeached and is currently in detention. The court also found Park's former chief of staff, Kim Ki-choon, to be guilty as an accomplice and had his penalty of three
years increased to four.
China has banned hip-hop culture and actors with tattoos from appearing on television.
The country's TV censor, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People's Republic of China (SAPPRFT), has banned actors
with tattoos and programmes featuring hip hop culture and anything else considered non-mainstream culture or dispirited culture.
Gao Changli, director of the censor's publicity department, outlined four new rules:
Absolutely do not use actors whose heart and morality are not aligned with the party and whose morality is not noble
Absolutely do not use actors who are tasteless, vulgar and obscene
Absolutely do not use actors whose ideological
level is low and have no class
Absolutely do not use actors with stains, scandals and problematic moral integrity
The ban follows recent 'outrage' at several Chinese rap stars. Prominent rapper GAI was ejected from Hunan TV's Singer a hit competition show. Wang Hao, aka PG One, another well-known rapper, was forced to apologize earlier this month after one
of his songs, Christmas Eve, was criticized for promoting drug culture and insulting women. Rapper Mao Yanqi, aka VaVa, was recently cut from the variety show Happy Camp.
The Papua New Guinea Office of Censorship has banned three local songs with lyrics deemed as inappropriate for listeners.
Chief Censor Steven Mala revealed that the three songs are Sigarapim saksak, Private Nangu and Meri Sunam by
The ban follows complaints on social media regarding the song Sigarapim saksak and the other two songs.
Chief Censor Steven Mala's description of the songs was harmful and not listener friendly, especially to the younger
The Chief Censor has invited the concerned artists behind the banned songs to have an open dialogue with his office if they feel the need to justify why their songs should not be banned. We don't want be seen as we are just there to
penalize any musicians, we want to work together with them in becoming professionals in the Music Industry and not just allowing them to produce something that is offensive to the public
China's social media giants are ramping up efforts to get their users to snitch on people circulating taboo content.
China's tech giant Tencent said it was hiring 200 content censors to form what the company is calling a penguin patrol unit, after the
company's penguin mascot. The brigade, made of 10 journalists, 70 writers who use Tencent's content platforms, and 120 regular internet users, will flag content that transgresses China's repressive censorship rules.
Reviewers will be required to
make at least 300 snitch reports each month about transgressive information, including porn, sensational headlines, plagiarism, fake news, or old news. Those who complete the mission will get 30 virtual coins which can be used to purchase items on
Tencent's QQ chat app. Those who fail to meet the reporting quota three times will be booted from the unit.
China's media censor is being taken to court over its view that homosexual activities are abnormal.
Following a crackdown on showing homosexuality in the country's media, a Beijing court has made the unusual move of accepting a legal challenge brought
by a member of the public.
In the unlikely event that Fan Chunlin wins his case, China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) would be forced to publicly clarify a regulation banning gay sex.
China's courts, the media and the SAPPRFT all controlled by the ruling communist party, the chances of Fan winning the case are small. However, Fan's lawyer, Tang Xiangqian, said that he hoped that the legal challenge will raise awareness of rights for
homosexual people in the country.
A decision on the case is expected within six months.
For a long time in China there have been numerous censorship rules about storylines that could or could not appear in films. Stories with magical elements were strictly limited to taking place during ancient times, modern horror films depicting seemingly
supernatural elements had to explain by the end of the film that the ghosts were just hallucinations or tricks setup by crazed killers, exceedingly bloody or violent scenes were nowhere to be seen.
The entire process of getting a film made was
also once strictly supervised at every step of the way from the beginning of production all the way to right before a film hit theaters. But 2017 provided some hints that things are relaxing in the Chinese mainland.
In March of 2017, the
government introduced the China Film Industry Promotion Law. One aspect of this new law has been to make it easier for films to start production. According to new regulations films that do not touch upon national security, diplomacy, ethnic minorities,
religion, the military and other sensitive subjects, no longer need to hand in their scripts for approval prior to shooting.
A few example storylines have already surfaced that would not have been made a couple of years ago. In Hanson and the
Beast , for example. The film takes place in modern times, yet tells the story of a zoo keeper who encounters and falls in love with a fox spirit. Many Chinese filmgoers were surprised to see spirits and demons straight out of Chinese legends
depicted as living in modern China. The film does spend a few minutes of sci-fi hand-waving to explain why these fantasy creatures from Chinese legends actually exist.
Another example is the upcoming animated dark comedy Have a Nice Day ,
contains explicit violent imagery in its depiction of criminal gang activity. The film was selected to compete for the Golden Bear Award at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival last year, but many moviegoers in China thought that the film wouldn't
see a release in its original form since it depicted the dark side of Chinese society. The film wasn't quite in its original form though as a few lines of dialogue were censored.
Perhaps China has realised that highly sanitised films are no good
for selling to the west.
Singapore film censors have banned a documentary about Palestine from screening at film festivals.
Government censors at the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) claimed that the film has a skewed narrative which could cause
disharmony in Simgapore.
The 2016 film, Radiance of Resistance, tells the story of Ahed al-Tamimi, then 14, and her 9-year-old friend Janna Ayyad, often called the youngest journalist in Palestine. The pair join protests in Palestine
against heavily armed Israeli soldiers.
The one-hour documentary, directed by Jesse Roberts, an American humanitarian and filmmaker, was scheduled to be screened at the Singapore Palestinian Film Festival 2018 on Thursday.
But on Tuesday,
the IMDA cancelled the screening, saying that the documentary explores the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the eyes of the two young protagonists, without a counterbalance. The censors said in a statement:
skewed narrative of the film is inflammatory and has the potential to cause disharmony amongst the different races and religions in Singapore.
The film was rated as 'not allowed for all ratings (NAR)'.
Adela Foo, the
festival's organiser, told local journalists that she was disappointed, but wouldn't appeal the IMDA's decision given time constraints.
An Israeli military court charged Ahed al-Tamimi, the film's main subject, with assault, for slapping an
Israeli soldier. Since her arrest, politicians, royals, and celebrities have spoken out for Ahed, now 16. Her father has said that his daughter's actions caught on video happened after Israeli soldiers shot her 14-year-old cousin, Mohammed al-Tamimi,
with a rubber bullet in his face.