Singapore (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Conservative government of Singapore has lifted the ban on 240 publications hitherto forbidden. These include texts that are inspired by Chinese communist doctrine such as "The Long March", as well as short stories and tales of the colonial past such as the collection of erotic stories "Fanny Hill" of 1748. However, according the Media Development Authority (MDA), religious texts that refer to Jehovah's Witnesses, outlawed since 1972, are still banned.
Mda explain officials say The Media Development Authority said it "routinely reviews prior classification decisions, in order to ensure that they keep pace with societal norms".
The "Undesirable Publications Act" maintains the ban for 17 publications which, according to the executive of the city-state, are contrary to public order and morality. This is while the ban remains on the importation, sale and distribution of this material.
These include magazines and books for adults with evident pornographic content and also religious material relating to the doctrine and beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses. The sect has been outlawed since 1972, because they are opposed to compulsory military service and refuse to sing the national anthem.
The Constitution of Singapore on paper guarantees religious freedom but it is restricted in practice. The government requires and encourages the so-called "religious harmony", prohibiting speeches or initiatives that could be sources of division or discord interfaith.
Buddhists are the largest religious group in Singapore, with about 33% of the population, followed by Christians who represent 18% (7% Catholics), agnostics with 16% and Muslims with just over 14%. There is also a large representative sample of other religious groups, such as Sikhs, Jews and Zoroastrians.
Religion is carefully monitored and each group with more than 10 members must register with authorities. In addition, the law provides for the possibility of outlawing any religious group considered potentially dangerous by the State or inclined to disturb the harmony, public order or the welfare of citizens. To date, only two religious groups have been declared as such by the Government: Jehovah's Witnesses, outlawed in 1972, followed a decade later by the Unified Church, founded by Korean Reverend Sun Myung Moon.