Censorship is saying: ‘I’m the one who says the last sentence. Whatever you say, the conclusion is mine.’ But the internet is like a tree that is growing. The people will always have the last word – even if someone has a very weak, quiet voice. Such power will collapse because of a whisper.
– Ai Weiwei
The other day I wrote a post about my amazement at how the Sultan of Brunei is implementing strict Sharia laws. That sparked a few memories, so now I wish to have a bit of a ramble. Today it will be about the censorship we experienced there.
When I lived there, censorship was undeniably bestowed onto the people. Take into account that this was before the time when internet was commonplace. I think it’s actually just brushing on before the time that internet existed.
I remember on TV how funny things would occur. We would be watching a film and then suddenly, when the main actors were looking all dovey eyed and about to kiss within the next 10 seconds, the screen would just go black. Then a few seconds later they would just jump straight onto the next scene.
The next example might just make you scratch your head. Brunei has quite a percentage of Chinese people living there, so celebrating Chinese New Year is a big thing. I remember when I was there, we entered into the Year of the Pig. We were all pretty excited and ready to visit our Chinese friends to wish them luck and join in their celebrations. We got up that morning, turned on the TV, and a lady on the news said: Congratulations, we have entered the Year of the Fish.
The Year of the Fish?
Well you see, pigs are not welcome in Islam so the national TV channel invented the Year of the Fish.
Then there was the press. The messages given in the newspapers were obviously manipulated. I remember how there was a local newspaper where one side of the newspaper was in English and the other was in Malay. It was amusing to see how the same story would be completely turned around when it was written in Malay (directed to the local people) or in English (directed to the expats living there).
At that time my parents were subscribing to Time magazine. Wow, now these got well censored! The magazine was supposed to come in a plastic wrapping. More often than not, it would arrive opened. It would also arrive censored. I remember receiving copies with whole pages ripped out. Other times it would arrive with images or stories scribbled out with thick black marker pens. This was way too much. Imagine receiving your private correspondence with parts torn away or erased.
I’m certain that most countries in the world do carry out censorship, some in a much heavier way than others. I wanted to share about our censorship experiences in Brunei only because it was so blatant, and even ridiculous sometimes. I would imagine that if I were to live in certain countries, even this post might be censored, which is quite a scary thought because even though I usually try to keep a light (and scrumptious) tone to my blog, it is also the space where I want to share my experiences no matter how surprising they may seem.
As I live in Spain now, I’m pretty certain that the government does apply some censorship into the news, but nowhere near as much as what we experienced in Brunei. I think that the censorship is light enough so that, like in the quote above, once the information travels through the internet and gets out of hand, the people have the last word.
What kind of censorship do you experience where you live?
Oh, and what has my black and white photo of flowers have to do with all this. Nothing really. I just extremely belatedly found out where the real black and white function on my camera is. I censored the beautiful colours off the flowers…
Thank you for reading!