Censorship and Control of Entertainments Act (Malawi)

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Date: 1968

Region: Africa

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion , Religion , Explicit Sexuality

Medium: Literature, Film Video , Theater


Confronting Bodies: The Censorship Board

Confronted Bodies: Artists and Content Producers in Malawi

Dates of Action: 1968

Location: Malawi

Focus of Opposition: Art, Music, Movies and Books

The Incident: Malawi Censorship Board which was created under the Censorship and Control of Entertainments Act was passed in 1968 to "regulate and control the making and exhibition of cinematographic pictures, the importation, production, dissemination and possession of undesirable publications, pictures, statues and records, the performance or presentation of stage plays and public entertainments, the operation of theaters and like places for the performance or presentation of stage plays and public entertainments in the interests of safety, and to provide for matters incidental thereto connected therewith..." Banned publications are those 'likely to give offense to the religious convictions or feelings of any section of the public, bring anyone into contempt, harm relations between sections of the public or be contrary to the interests of public order.


A Censorship Board was set up under the Act to determine which publications are acceptable and which are banned. The Act also provides that any member of the public can complain, anonymously if they wish, about material which has 'caused offense'. In only the first seven and a half years of its existence, the Censorship Board banned over 840 books, more than 100 periodicals and 16 films. Since then the list has expanded considerably. Possession of a listed publication is a criminal offense punishable by a term of imprisonment. Banned publications range from the overtly political (Marx, Engels, Trotsky and, oddly, a counter-insurgency manual by a former US Marine Corps officer), through the sexual (Playboy, Kama Sutra, Harold Robbins) to works of literature. Among the hundreds of authors who have failed to win the approval of the Malawi Censorship Board are George Orwell, James Baldwin, Bernard Malamud, Wole Soyinka, Okot p'Bitek, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, J.P. Donleavy, Graham Greene and Emil Zola. The Universal philistinism of the censor is often on display. Thus The Second Sex by Simone de Blauvoir (sic!) is on the banned list sandwiched between the Nymphet and The Dangerous Games and in close proximity to The Leather Scene and The Kinky Crowd.

Results of Incident: As of October 1990 (the date of the article written) freedom of expression in Malawi continued to be virtually forbidden and repression was rampant.

Source: Human Rights Watch/Africa Watch, "Where Silence Rules, The Suppression of Dissent in Malawi," October 1990, Pg. 69