Despite recent announcements that Singapore will relax its censorship laws including lifting the 20-year ban on Cosmopolitan magazine, the media regulatory body in Singapore has 'warned' a local men's magazine to tone down its 'pro-gay' content and use of half-nude male bodies.
"We have warned the publisher that the current state of the magazine, which features nudity and homosexual content, is unacceptable," the MDA told Streats newspaper.
The MDA had considered an image of a bare-chested guy, which accompanied a health and fitness article in its inaugural issue, published last October to be "too homosexual."
The authority had also brought up an article which quoted Beatrice Chia as saying, "why should we tolerate gays, we should accept them." (She was directing the play Bent about the persecution of gays during the Holocaust during that time.)
Arjan Nijen Twilhaar, the magazine's chief editor told Fridae, "In MDA's view, this is perceived as promoting a gay lifestyle."
The MDA also questioned the following statement in an article on the pink dollar: "Though so young, we should consider Singapore bold and progressive with the move towards openness and maybe even acceptance rather then just tolerance."
Other points of contention include "a fashion spread in issue 1 where there were 3 guys on the beach - was considered too "gay" for a swimwear shoot;" an image in issue 2 that showed pubic hair, which the MDA considers nudity; a picture that was used to promote issue 3 (in issue 2) where "one of the models was positioned too closely to the buttocks of the other male model" and an ad for clothing shop which stated "alternative lifestyle shop", which MDA didn't consider appropriate, according to Twilhaar.
In a statement, he said: "MANAZINE feels strongly that writers or interviewees can voice their opinions, ideas and views on certain topics, a move that is welcomed by the government. In a statement to the Straits Times, Dr. Lee Boon Yang stated 'Better educated and more knowledgeable Singaporeans want to be more informed about government decisions and want their views to be heard and considered.'"
Meanwhile, People Like Us (PLU), Singapore's gay advocacy group has said in a statement: "People Like Us deplores yet another attempt at censorship. In particular, the government is being hypersensitive to visuals with homo-erotic sensibilities, even tasteful ones, when such is becoming commonplace in the international media; is being sexist as visuals with the same degree of nudity, but featuring female models are widely seen in other local magazines; is suppressing free speech by making an issue of Manazine reporting a comment by Beatrice Chia, and other content touching on homosexuality; is spreading disinformation by continuing to cast homosexual orientation in terms of mere "lifestyle" - that must not be promoted.
In a letter to Streats, PLU wrote: "The MDA is doing Singapore a disservice. The government tells Singaporeans that to survive, we must be plugged into global trends. We must be a cosmopolitan city, able to attract the best and brightest to live and work here. Yet here is another attempt to keep Singaporeans' minds closed.
"No doubt, the MDA will resort to the familiar argument that Singapore is a conservative society and the people here are not ready for anything modern, least of all attitudes. Before they fall back on this excuse, the MDA should reflect on how their own censorship polices have kept Singaporeans as ostriches with heads in the sand, and how it would be intellectually dishonest to claim public opinion as justification for censorship, when it is their own censorship that has created that very same public opinion."
"ESSENCE," the fourth issue will be revamped and is scheduled to launch on April 15 as the publishers will work together closely with MDA for an infinite period, Twilhaar maintained that the magazine's bold content would not be compromised.